A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson

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A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson

Category: Travel
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sharon Hall
Reviewed by Sharon Hall
Summary: This excellently written, engaging and interesting book about Spanish food and culture makes mouthwatering reading. Richardson travels throughout Spain meeting farmers, food producers and chefs, and is passionate about his subject. It is an excellent read, even for people who don't usually read books about food. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747593805

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Although subtitled discovering the food of Spain, this excellently written, engaging and interesting book is about so much more. Yes, the focus is on food, mouthwateringly described, but it is also about culture, people, travel, tourism, history and geography.

Paul Richardson fell in love with Spain, its people and its cuisine after a chance trip to a food fair in Madrid in the late 1980s. He moved to Ibiza in 2000 and now lives on a farm in Extramadura with his Spanish partner, an agronomist. This book sees him travelling through all the regions of mainland Spain, talking to farmers, cheesemakers, oil producers and restaurant and café owners, examining the history, traditions and culture of food.

In Andalucia he partakes of some hearty fare:

… ajoatado, a hearty mash of potato and garlic, and ajopringue, a pork liver pate with red pepper, pimenton, and spices, and a roast leg of mountain lamb with a rust-red, smoothly oily sauce made with tomato and potato pureed with chilli, cumin and bayleaf.

Admitting he was once very snobbish about Benidorm and its international 'cuisine', he goes there and finds the traditional food of neighbouring Murcia alive and well in an unassuming bar, just off the main drag. He is served snails in a piquant sauce, fried almonds, broad bean stew, eggs with onions, and salted anchovies with toast and olive oil, trouncing the pizza and spag bol diet of the tourists.

He wanders around fish markets, marvelling in the sights and sounds and variety of fish. On a trip to Valencia, he sits with Raul Aleixandra, a second generation chef, eating salads of baby chard, rocket, turnip tops and violet petals. After a discourse on the Spanish signature dish of paella, he is cooked an authentic one made from chicken, rabbit, butter beans and saffron, on a wood fire in a blackened two-handled pan.

In Jaen, the region responsible for one third of the entire Spanish ouput of olive oil, he embraces the oil culture entirely, even drinking it like fruit juice. He visits the coasts and inland rural Spain with its diet based on bread and economy. Leftovers are turned into delicious meals: surplus chickpeas and vegetables are fried with oil and garlic to make ropa vieja, meaning old clothes. Asturia is famous for its dairy produce (the region produces 40 different cheeses, including Taramundi and Afuega’l Pitu) and cider: a good local cider is said to ta cantarina, to make you sing. Toledo is the centre of saffron production and where many families still have a small saffron plot. The saffron is picked by hand, in houses with the doors and windows kept shut to save the precious and expensive saffron from being blown away.

This is not one of those awful foodie, exclusive, show-off books. This is a book written by someone passionate about the Spanish people and their culture, and his enthusiasm is contagious. It is informative, but not at all in a pushy style, and is also amusing. Even if you don’t normally read books about food (which I don’t), I am sure you will enjoy this account and you might well find yourself thinking about visiting Spain to enjoy some of the dishes he so pleasingly describes. It would make ideal holiday reading. It does not have recipes, but it does include an explanation of Spanish cooking terms and phrases, and ends with a wonderful description of a meal and siesta:

… a lunch of home-grown suckling pig, roasted on a rack of bay twigs … We gorged on the sweet oily meat, swigging down the red wine from glasses smeared with greasy finger-marks … There were peaches, a little cheese, coffee, cigarettes … And then, one by one, we did that Spanish thing: we sloped off to our beds, our sofas, our hammocks and easy chairs …

I need no more convincing. Now, about those flight times …

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoyed this book, you might like to try An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David.

Booklists.jpg A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson is in the Top Ten Books For Your Mother.
Buy A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson at Amazon.com.


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