Paella is one of the emblems of Spain and a great tourist attraction for tourists, it has had a reserved space on our tables for centuries. This dish defines the gastronomy of Spain for its great variety, conquering all kinds of palates. But do you really know the origin of paella?
From humble origins, this dish has evolved to become one of the most recognized in Spanish gastronomy. Despite this, not everyone knows where paella comes from.
History of paella
Paella was born between the 15th and 16th centuries in the rural areas of Valencia, specifically in La Albufera. This dish arises from the need of farmers and shepherds for a meal that is easy to prepare, with the ingredients they had on hand in the field. They cooked a hearty dish to face the daily journey.
In its beginnings it was only composed of rice, flour and almond milk. A recipe that over time was enriched with other ingredients that the workers had. Ingredients such as: birds, rabbit or hare. All this mixed with saffron and olive oil. Finally, it was cooked over a wood fire, specifically orange wood, very slowly. The paella admitted multiple variants depending on the area and the time in which they were. Reason for which we can find paellas with snails in some places.
In the sea areas the dish was totally different since the fishermen of La Albufera included fish or shellfish. Being born what we know today as seafood paella.
The paella conquered all classes from its beginnings. Becoming the favorite dish for celebrations throughout Spain in the 19th century, even crossing borders. So much so that in the Spanish Levant they tell a story between a French general and a cook during the War of Independence. Said general fell madly in love with the Valencian dish, even releasing a Spanish prisoner for each plate of rice. It is said that the cook, who cooked a different paella every day, managed to free 176 prisoners.
Origin of the word paella
There are different theories about the origin of the word paella. Some attribute it to Latin, because the word pan in Latin is “patella”. Others say that it comes from the Arabic word “baquiyah”. This second theory gains more strength since rice was brought to Spain by the páramos, the inhabitants of North Africa.
But without a doubt our favorite theory is the one we find in a story. It says that a man prepared a paella for his girlfriend and win her affection. So that paella can derive from the Spanish “for her”. In Spain women generally cooked, but paella was the work of men.
Is there a single recipe?
Paella is a dish that admits practically any ingredient. There is no recipe that unifies the great variety of possibilities that this dish gives us, one paella will never taste the same as another. All this gives us the possibility of creating dishes based on tastes, although in its beginnings, as we have already told you, it was the result of everything that the peasants had: snails, rabbit, tomatoes…
Thanks to its popularization, paella has become a gastronomic tradition throughout the country, giving rise to thousands of recipes as its food combinations become infinite. Although it never rains to everyone’s taste, so some consider some combinations as a true circus. We can only say that there is a paella for each person. Mix, try and get to create the paella as you like.