Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gazpacho, a history of poor people’s food?

Scrumptious! With the hot summer weather it’s not even a question what to eat when in Malaga: a nice big, ice cold bowl of Gazpacho! 

But as always, when I eat a traditional and local dish, I start wondering: who invented this and how did they come up with this idea? I know Gazpacho is made with tomatoes and peppers, so it can’t be that old of an idea, right?

After some research I did discover the word Gazpacho could be derived from the Latin word ‘caspa’ which means ‘tidbit’ or ‘left over’. But the Romans did not have any tomatoes or peppers… 

There are etymologists who mention de mosarabic word for poor men’s food, also ‘caspa’, still no peppers, nor tomatoes. Tomatoes came to Spain after Columbus discovered America.

José Briz tells us the Hebrew word ‘gazaz’ means ‘to break into pieces’ and might also be a good explanation for the derivation of Gazpacho. All these words seem to tell us something about the techniques used to make the dish or the purpose of the dish, not much about the ingredients. 

What’s going on here… is or isn’t this a very old dish, traditionally made for centuries in and around Malaga? It seems like no one really knows the answer, the origins are not documented, but there are theories!

A bit more digging learns us that Juan de la Mata published a book called ‘Arte de reposteria’ in 1747, in which he tells the reader about different kinds of Gazpacho… Okay, so there are several kinds?

It also seems that pre-Roman Andalucians made something akin to Gazpacho in Phoenician times, which isn’t that strange since something similar was made by peoples on the Italian peninsula in pre-Roman times, so it seems to be common Mediterranean dish. A cold meal of stale bread drenched in vinegar, olive oil and water, flavored with garlic was eaten by almost all cultures in the Mediterranean. There might even be hints in the direction of this kind of meal in the Old Testament (Ruth 2.14), just sort of describing the ingredients, not sharing with the reader the name that might have been given to this meal. Nowadays, everyone seems to make a different variation of Gazpacho. 

But of course I want to find some kind of ‘traditional’ recipe.As soon as you start digging up the past of Gazpacho, you will notice there are different kinds, as I mentioned before. For instance in Antequera they make Porra, which is a thicker kind of Gazpacho. The Moors while in Andalucia also made their own variations, for instance a white variation with lots of garlic and cucumber, sometimes with asparagus. It seems if though when the sailors set sail for America in the era of the big discoveries, they made the traditional cold soup for themselves during the trip and after discovering tomatoes and peppers, they added it to their original recipe.

Nowadays we still know a white kind of gazpacho: ajoblanco. Ajoblanco, literally white garlic, contains bread, almonds, sometimes grapes and of course the base of bread, olive oil and garlic. And then there is Salmorejo. Salmorejo is the kind that is popular in the Córdoba area. It’s more silky and rich than the regular Gazpacho. It is served with diced Serrano ham and chopped hard-boiled eggs. A lot like porra, I would say. And then we also have arranque with less water and bread than regular gazpacho… again, sounds to me like porra, but hey, what do I know? Best way to figure out which variation is the best, you might as well go out and try them all!

There is this place in Malaga, a tapas bar, called Ajo Blanco. It is located in the Plaza de Ucibay,8. Here they are supposed to serve the best Gazpacho in Malaga, so do go and have a try!

But, if you feel inspired and like to make some gazpacho of your own, here are some recipes:

Gazpacho Ingredients

  •        4 chunks/slices of stale white bread (crust removed)
  •        2 cloves of garlic
  •        olive oil
  •        1 onion
  •        500 g tomato
  •        2 red peppers
  •        0.5 cucumber
  •        50 ml red wine vinegar
  •        100 ml tomato juice
  •        salt
  •        fresh black pepper

Dice the bread. Soak the bread in a small amount of water. Gently remove and “squeeze” dry. Peal and chop the garlic and onion and dice the peppers, tomato, cucumber and place the tomatoes, bread, cucumbers, onions, garlic and peppers in a blender, bit by bit, adding the tomato juice and vinegar. Add salt and pepper and when everything is blended smoothly, place the gazpacho in a non-metallic bowl in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Ajo Blanco Ingredients

  •      200 g blanched almond
  •      4 chunks/slices of stale white bread (crust removed)
  •      2 cloves of garlic
  •      1.5 liters of cold water
  •      200 ml olive oil
  •      1 tb vinegar

Dice the bread. Soak the bread in a small amount of water. Gently remove and “squeeze” dry. Grind the almonds and garlic cloves. Mix bread, garlic and almonds until it becomes a white paste. Bit by bit add the oil, while stirring. After that add vinegar and water, again bit by bit until the mixture is nice and creamy (to your taste). You can add salt and pepper to taste. Place the gazpacho in a non-metallic bowl in the fridge for about 2 hours.


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