Originally my fascination of Spain came from a historical point of view. Kingdom of conquered and conquistadores. Influences from Romans, Arabs, Christians from all kingdoms doing pilgrimage to various sites to the exploits in the Americas has allowed the Spanish to develop a diverse, complex yet very healthy diet.
From the height of the Roman Empire to the 15th century fish salting “factories”cured tuna, sturgeon, and shark among other fish along the Gibraltar Straits. Cadiz, Malaga and Cartagena became hot points of production. Bolonia, Cadiz had a huge complex whose ruins can be visited today. A by-product of the curing was the much sought after sauce Garum. Used in the noble homes in Rome and also to feed the legions. Spanish Garum was renown through the Empire. In its hay day it rivaled even production in Pompeii, center of the Roman Empire and playground of the Roman wealthy. This sauce is still used to some extent today and the age-old practice of curing fish has led to Mojama..which is the salt-cured tuna found through the south of Spain.
The invasion, conquest and creation of Al-Andalus by the Arabs in Spanish territory created a culinary beacon shining in the south of Spain after the fall of the Romans. With that invasion came saffron, arbequina olives, pepper and nutmeg among other things. The use of almonds in cooking both savory and sweet can be seen today from marzipans from Toledo, turrones especially from the Alicante coast to Ajoblanco soup and Pollo en pepitoria.
With the rise of the Catholic Kings and the fall of Granada the Spanish reclaimed the south of Spain expelling the Arabs and Jews but absorbing many culinary traditions. Rodrigo Borja, a Cardinal from Valencia, was elected Pope taking his Spanish chefs and customs with him to Rome. Columbus and the following waves of Conquistadores returned from the New World bringing “treasure”in many forms. Tomatoes, peppers, purple potatoes, chocolate and tobacco enriched the continuously growing culinary wealth. Its influences can be found throughout the Mediterranean today.
If you want to taste Chef Cole’s dishes, head to the Fat Goose located at 125 Wythe Ave at North 8 St. in Williamsburg.
Want to make Chef Cole’s dishes? Check out the video below.