Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

234 × 156 × 27 mm
344 pages
97 illustrations, 85 in colour
14 Oct 2019
Foods and Nations

Delicioso A History of Food in Spain María José Sevilla

Spanish cuisine is a melting-pot of cultures, flavours and ingredients: Greek and Roman, Jewish, Moorish and Middle Eastern. It has been enriched by its climate, geology and spectacular topography, which have encouraged a variety of regional food traditions and ‘Cocinas’, such as Basque, Galician, Castilian, Andalusian and Catalan. It has been shaped by the country’s complex history, as foreign occupations brought religious and cultural influences that determined what people ate and still eat. It has continually evolved with the arrival of new ideas and foodstuffs from Italy, France and the Americas, including cocoa, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and chilli peppers.

This is the first book in English to trace the history of the food of Spain from antiquity to the present day. From the use of pork fat and olive oil to the Spanish passion for aubergines and pomegranates, María José Sevilla skilfully weaves together the history of Spanish cuisine, the circumstances affecting its development and characteristics, and the country’s changing relationship to food and cookery.

‘Take a deep dive into Spanish cuisine from prehistory to Ferran Adrià . . . [this] illustrated book is a dense, scholarly survey that starts with prehistory some 80,000 years ago. It traces the contributions to the Spanish table by ancient Rome; Moorish, Christian and Jewish cultures; European royalty; and foods of the New World. The effects of social and political change, years of war and the rise of the influential Spanish chefs of today are covered, as are ingredients like olives, anchovies and chocolate; markets; dishes like cocido; and time-honored utensils. There’s a quick survey of food across Spain, region by region.’ — Florence Fabricant, The New York Times

‘Sevilla’s history of Spain and surrounding islands through edibles incorporates cooking into an exacting cultural overview. From the Celtic origins of Iberia, initial chapters examine early settlement through 1492, menu by menu. With a burst of specifics, the history of the Columbian exchange accompanies growth of the salt cod industry and worldwide pepper and saffron trades. By examining Jewish, Moorish, and Islamic immigrants and their tastes, the text accounts for a complex diet rich in flavors and aromas, from pulses, moles, lenten eggs and beans, and gazpacho to lamb and anchovy grills, tartas, and manchego cheese. Meticulous footnotes and bibliography precede primary and secondary indexing that points the way to the stews and bitter oranges of Andaluz, Castilian black pudding and roast meats, the mozdrabe cuisine of Cordoba, and periods of starvation during World War II and the Spanish Civil War. Memorable passages treating individual foods – potatoes, sugar, tomatoes, chocolate, rice – epitomize the Spanish skill at incorporating newcomers to the marketplace in piquant fritters, omelets, marzipan, and restaurant tapas . . . A prize for the culinary section of public, high school, or college libraries. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘Like other works of art, dishes document culture. María José Sevilla shows us that the best way to enjoy Spanish history is by eating Spanish food, and that the best way to enjoy the food is by reading her account of the history. ¡Buen provecho!’ — Felipe Fernández-Armesto, author of Food: A History

‘An epic and very readable history of Spanish food culture from Palaeolithic times to the present day. Very interesting.’ — Dr Lara Anderson, Convenor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, University of Melbourne

Show all

María José Sevilla's previous books include Life and Food in the Basque Country (1989), Spain on a Plate (1992) and Mediterranean Flavours (1995). She lives in London, UK, and the Sierra de Aracena in Andalusia, Spain.


one A Land at the Edge of the Unknown
two Moors, Jews and Christians
three Life in the Castle
four A Golden Age
five Madrid, Versailles, Naples and, Best of All, Chocolate
six Politics at the Table
seven Hunger, Hope and Success
eight The Cocinas of Spain

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements