Inside the Spanish Pantry: What All Spaniards Should Have At Home Part 2

Welcome to Part II, I hope you'll be inspired to fill your pantry with Spanish necessities, or that this article helps guide you through the market on your next travels through Spain.

Eggs: After the potatoes of Part I, we must have eggs, they're like "peas in a pod" and aside from making the classic tortilla de patatas which I have already ground into your memory, eggs also serve as wonderful impromptu meals like huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs), huevos rotos (literally "broken eggs" with fried potatoes, and often small pieces of jamón or chorizo bits, famously served at Casa Lucio in Madrid (where President Bill Clinton once dined) and bizcochos (cakes), or a classic and delicious "poor man's" meal of rice with a fried egg and tomato sauce - which is incredibly simple and homey.

As a side note, Spain has an interesting category system developed to acknowledge the grade, farm, and feeding process of each egg; the first number is key in understanding the origin: 0 signifies organic and pasture raised, 1 is free range, commonly known as "gallinas libres" but no longer vouches the fodder, 2 is barn raised and finally, number 3 is the lowest and is up for interpretation; usually entailing industrial means, tight confinement and potentially, although I'm generalizing, GMO feed. Most importantly, get to know your vendors (In Malaga I recommend Rio Grande). And if you still think I'm blowing a lot of hot air, read more here about caged and free range eggs.

Saffron: From one of the most economical to the most extravagant, let's move on to saffron, azafrán, also known as the most expensive spice in the world and harvested in Spain (introduced by the Arabs in the 9th century to the Iberian Peninsula, but now primarily found in La Mancha, did you know that?). A kilo of saffron threads from the grocery store will set you back over 5,000 euros, but keep in mind 225,000 stigmas are needed to produce one pound of product! But in reality you don't need that much, a simple pinch goes a long way and is the perfect ingredient to achieve that fabulous golden hue that suffuses through world famous paella dishes. ¡Ojo! Be careful as many restaurants will attempt to copy this color with an industrial colorant, which of course loses the unique flavor that the saffron stigmas develop during their drying process and lend to the final product. A packet of ground saffron (azafrán molido), say 40g like the Carmencita package seen below, will last for various recipes and costs just under 2€.

Bread: "es pan comido" (meaning it's as easy as (apple) pie), but none the less an ingredient that never fails to be present in Spanish households. In fact, quite a furry of panic can occur if there is no bread left. Children on their way home from school, fathers WhatsApp'd by their wives "Honey, please pick up some bread." A simple barra (baguette loaf) of bread can be found in almost every corner of the standard Spanish city; obviously at the bakery, but also Middle Eastern fruit stands, Chinese owned 99 cent stores, or even bulk candy stores (chucherías). To eat a meal without bread, is to not eat. It's a fork, a source of energy and a super economical way to wrap jamón york (ham slices), Nocilla (Spanish chocolate spread like Nutella) and whatever else is found in the fridge for a quick snack, the end result being the bocadillo (sandwich).

Vinegar: So we've deduced that every family in Spain has olive oil coming out of their ears, but what about vinegar? I mean what's a salad without oil and vinegar (essentially the only dressing found in Spain)? Well I'll go a little out on a limb here and one up that statement, that not only should every home have vinegar on hand, but that they should be using vinagre de jerez, Sherry vinegar, none of that Modena stuff. That after all would be supporting the local economy and something we're all aboard for during this economic crisis riffling through Spain.

Sanchez Romate vinagre de Jérez reserva (sherry wine vinegar, aged 3 years). Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. 

Pimentón: Another crimson colored spice, and one that is used with much more looseness of the wrist than saffron due in part to its price and the abundance of recipes that require it. Pimentón dulce, a sweet or mild paprika, similar to that of Hungary and the Balkans; of this variety there are the DOs (denomination of origin) de la Vera and Murcia. Its smoldering taste comes from the manner in which it is dried by the smoke of oak branches. It can also be purchased in agridulce (moderately spicy) and picante (spicy); all three varieties originate from different red chilies and bell peppers brought from the Americas when Columbus returned to the peninsula  At home, it's used in making chorizos, fabada Asturianamojo picón (pepper sauce from the Canary Islands), and countlessly sprinkled directly over potatoes, eggs, and some cheese rinds.

Canned Seafood: You certainly can tell if you're in the home of a Spaniard if you peruse the kitchen and find numerous amounts of seafood in tins; tuna, sardines, mackerel, mussels, razor clams, squid - the list goes on and on. Believe it or not, prices range from extremely affordable (.99-1.20 euros for a can of sardines) to exorbitant almejas blancas (white clams) at 60 euros a tin. Either way you open it, Spaniards put an important emphasis on these seafood products and much pride in their industry (see more on how anchovies are packaged and sold in Cantabria, Spain).

Coffee: Last but not least we have coffee, which of course is not, and never will be a product of Spain, but that remains a crucial factor in the culture of Spanish ways of life. Meeting with your friends for an afternoon chat? Have the coffee pot on-hand  On your 11am work break? Go for a coffee. Just finishing your two hour lunch meal? What better way to fight off the food coma ensuing in your belly than shooting-up with an espresso?! In fact, it doesn't even have to be a coffee, but the word "coffee" in these contexts encompasses the act of getting together and being surrounded by friends, relatives, acquaintances or coworkers.

Today, every Spanish household is the proud owner of the now very in fashion Moka pot, an early 20th century invention that swept Europe and pretty much created a monopoly for home brewing. Only in the last 5 years or so has the phenomenon of Nestle's Nespresso (coffee capsules) and home espresso machines caught on. But you can guarantee that estés donde estés, wherever you are, developing a relationship with a Spaniard, will end with the ubiquitous coffee date.

Thanks for reading! Do you agree? Did I miss something in the Spanish pantry? If you'd like to comment, please do - I love interacting with other Spanophiles. Or follow me on Facebook at Sobremesa In Spain

Also need to mention a tip from Cat at Sunshine and Sietas regarding my last post, she brought to the conversation the importance and prevalence of garlic!! ¡Sí señor!


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