MEDIEVAL FOOD IN SPAIN
Almost one thousand years ago, El Cid, the famous Spanish medieval hero, struggled to get his daily sustenance, shared stews with the Christians and tasted his Muslim friends’ delicate food.
Nowadays we like eating for pleasure, but in the Middle Ages it was a matter of real surviving in a society always threatened by famine. At war, food became a key element to victory or defeat. It was so important, that lords used it in their own benefit to have control over the population.
Learning about what people used to eat in the Middle Ages is learning about the medieval society, as food became an element of social distinction. Higher social estates showed their power and social pre-eminence through big feasts held to celebrate great events. Hunting became the nobility’s favourite type of exercise and they kept the forests for themselves (hunting there could be punished with dead)… while most of the population could hardly have more than one meal a day, usually based on vegetables and, above all, bread, and they could only taste meat very few times a year.
However, the ingredients used and the different spices and dishes were determined by the cultural differences in the Iberian Peninsula at that time. The so-called three cultures coexisted for centuries, Christians, Muslims and Jews, and religion played a main role as regards not only the elaboration of recipes, but also when and how to eat them. The final result of the contributions from the three cultures was one only Spanish cuisine, which would spread throughout Europe in the following years.
Did you know that… ?
… El Cid had to face a hunger strike?
… the Jewish “adafina” is the origin of all Christian stews?
… the garlics the Cid used to eat had been brought from Egypt by the Romans?
… El Cid’s exile is a continuous struggle to get his daily food for survival?
… the court hated The Cid because he touched a knight’s beard?
… El Cid learnt how to make “escabeche” (pickled food) from his Moor Friends?