The earliest settlers of Spain include the Iberians, the Celts, and the Basques groups. Then the Phoenicians came, who were later followed by the Greeks, who ruled Spain until they were defeated by the Romans. The last of the settlers to arrive were armies of Arabs and Berbers, whom were called Moors. Fascinated with water, they developed irrigation systems and planted citrus and almond trees in eastern and southern Spain.
The Phoenicians arrived from the Mediterranean and brought their sauces to Spain. The Greeks gave the Spanish cuisine olives and olive oil though. Other cultures that have contributed to the Spanish cuisine are the Jews and the Carthaginians. At one point in time, Christians, Jews and Moors lived harmoniously and this helped to blend the unique flavors of Spanish cuisine. While they left their mark on the cuisine, it is the Moors who most strongly influenced Spain’s cuisine.
For over 750 years, the Moors occupied Spain and had the greatest influence on their culinary development. Experts at irrigation, the Moors introduced the cultivation of rice, spices such as saffron, cumin and anise. They also planted almond trees, which became an important ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes.
Another influence the Moors contributed to Spanish cuisine was their preservation methods. The marinating technique of combining strong vinegary sauces with the combination of sweet and spicy foods was an Arab tradition.
Each region of Spain has added it own variations to what these other cultures have brought. Vegetables as well as meats vary with different regional climates in Spain. With so much of Spain surrounded by water, fish and seafood are also very much a part of the cuisine. Span is divided into five distinct regions: Green Spain, Central Spain, the Pyrenees, Mediterranean Spain, and Andalusia.
“Green Spain is located in the north and northwest and includes the regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and the Basque Provinces.”
Bibliography: Barrenechea, Teresa. The Cuisines of Spain:Exploring Regional Home Cooking.Ten Speed Press.2009. Casas, Penelope. The Foods and Wines of Spain. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.1982. Nenes, Michael. International Cusine: The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes. John Wiley & Sons. 2008