My mother was eight years old when the Spanish Civil War ended. She was taught how to survive during that terrible time of the postwar.
She never went to school, she had to go with her father and his working gang (six men) to the fields where they worked. They went with their mules and had to leave very early every morning to avoid the heat, they travelled between one and three hours to get to the fields. She was in charge of preparing their food. She had to cook a big meal for seven hard working men. It was a big responsibility for such a young child, but that was her life.
She was so small and the pan was so big that my Grandfather had to build a kind of step with a tree trunk for my mother to be able to reach it.
In those times in Spain women were taught to be housewives as everybody was poor and there was not enough work for everyone. Being a housewife was very hard work. You had to survive with what your husband brought home and you had to have as many children as God sent you, and you had to look after the house, the children, the livestock….
My mum learnt very early in life how to feed a family properly with very few resources.
The stalwarts of the cooking pot were:
Migas (Flour,water,salt,oil and pork)with grapes, Potage de Verduras (vegetable stew), Potage de garbanzos (chickpeas,spinach,potato and almonds), any kind of vegetable or pulses stew you can think of.The rices like Murcian rice (Free range chicken, rabbit, parsley), Arroz de verduras-Vegetable rice(artichokes,young garlic, tomato,rice) and variations of other rice dishes. Olla de invierno (vegetables, pork,blackpudding).
She was taught the basics and she became a Master Cook. She is now eighty one years old and cooks every day like she has done all her life. My parent’s house is like a restaurant, It does not matter when or how many people appear there, there is always plenty of delicious Spanish traditional food for everybody and more.
I’ve learnt all my cooking skills from her, but I think I’m the last generation of cooks in Spain who have learnt from our mothers. Every single dish require lots of ingredients, lots of time, lot of pans and above all lots and lots of love.
At THE SPANISH THYME TRAVELLER food and wine are the basis for all our holidays. If you fancy a food and wine tour have a look at our Borgias Tour, a five day trip through Valencian and Spanish food and culture in Xativa and the surrounding inland area.