What makes a good Spanish cook?

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.

Foodie tour

Typical pan used in Murcia

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….

Traditional Spanish Cooking

Traditional pan and utensils used for cooking in the country

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).

Local gastronomy

Murcian rice. Typically made over an open fire

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.




10 thoughts on “What makes a good Spanish cook?

  1. Hi Julia – great article. My mum was of same generation – she was 10 when Civil War ended. Left Spain in 50s and HATED cooking! Just tweeted.

    Have you checked out our selection of over 70 Spanish recipe/cook books?

  2. Thanks for sharing the story about your mother. When I visit my in-laws they practically force feed us, and I think that mentality stems from how much they suffered during the civil war. They don’t want to travel the world or go out to fancy restaurants, they are simply happy being able to provide nice (big) meals for their family.

  3. I´m often asked why I came to Spain. The point is why Is stayed for so long. I´m sure food has something to do with it. The quality of food and cooking here is just wonderful. All those regional variations, traditional things depending on the time of year and the scrummy natural produce. hmmm

  4. For me the best thing about Spanish food is the honesty and total lack of pretention that it is made with. It also never ceases to surprise me how diverse the food can be from one town to the next.

  5. Thank you for a very interesting post! My mother was 11 when the Civil War ended and left Spain in 1951. Food and cooking have always been an important part of her life. She too knows how to make a meal with few resources and lives very frugally except when she cooks for others. I can totally relate to Lauren’s “force-feeding” experiences!