I am not sure if this is still something the children learn in Taiwan, but one chapter in a primary school text that are taught nationally says every grain of rice, is a drop of the farmer’s sweat.
I’ve grown up with this value ingrained in me, to understand that food doesn’t come easily, and we should appreciate the hard work another person has gone through so that we have the various produce on our table at the end of the day.
It saddens me that kids in most developed countries (and some in developing countries with a surge with middle class consumerism) don’t know where their food comes from, so when I go to places to witness just how much passion people have for their produce, I wish I could tell the world all about it.
And most recently, I was introduced to many of these amazing food producers in Andalucia, a region in Spain with a happy and sunny deposition, where farmers, biologists, winemakers work hard at growing and producing the best quality produce, at the same time to be in sync with nature to ensure a sustainable future for all of us.
Andalucia is a delicious introduction to Spain
What we consider ‘Spanish food’ really need to be defined as what is being marketed as ‘Spanish food’. Just because paella is Spanish doesn’t mean every region in Spain eats it. Like everywhere else, Spanish cuisine suffers from a long history of advertising direction and presumptions on a culture that we often make the faux pas of saying the wrong things!
And when it comes to Andalucia – don’t mention the paella. You see, this dish belongs to the Valencia side of Spain! And the dish is also not what you think either. Traditionally it isn’t always a seafood dish! Rice farmers would often pick out whatever they had around the farm – snails, beans and other vegetables around the farm and cook them with their own reserves of rice. It’s a dish with very humble origins and it’s little stories and discoveries like these that make me so in love with travelling.
As for travelling to Spain, it is hard to believe that I’ve never been to Spain before. During the year in Germany, and all my subsequent visits thereafter, I’ve never really been lured by Spain.
Is it the package holiday advertisements that put me off? Or the close proximity of it to Britain that I’ve categorised it into one of those places that will always be there and therefore, there was no hurry to get there?
I don’t know, but I am glad that this trip was my first trip in Spain, for it has given me such a delicious introduction to the country.
Andalucia – a region of history and great agriculture
We began our journey in Seville and over five days, made our way across Andalucia to villages and cities around the region.
Out of our car window, I see vast fields of silvery olive groves. Hills rise and fall in the distance, with sprinkles of vineyards in their shadows. Church towers with hints of their Islamic past sprout up like signposts surrounded by the towns and cities they dominate over.
What surprised me were the forests of eucalyptus trees swaying in the wind against the dry dusty land. There is something very familiar about this scene, if not for the light brown of the soil, I could easily picture myself somewhere back home. Hunter Valley? Adelaide Hills?
That’s the word I was looking for. The scenery of Andalucia was soothing, a sigh of relief, a breath of fresh air.
But where Andalucia really grabbed my attention, were those in its agriculture businesses. This is a region proud of its produce. From its wineries of sherry, to the quality olive oil, to the world famous Iberico ham, you could say this is the part of Spain that is truly delicious.
Not only that, farmers and biologists have sought ways to be in harmony with nature, from innovative fish farming methods that works with surrounding wetlands and wildlife at Veta La Palma, to a new single cell marine sea algea product that could be grown in a lab which could potentially be a sustainable source of food with Marine Plancton, to the dedication of family producers of olive oil at Hacienda Guzman where the family estate is also an open air museum of olive breeds around the world to the lovely Juan Maria of Flor de Doñana, whose organic strawberries and raspberries are so juicy and sweet I am not sure I can eat another unknown punnet of berries ever again. (Thankfully, his organic products are sold in Waitrose in the UK!)
Wine is of course, always on the menu. We visited Bodegas Robles, an organic wine label with a wine making ethic that work with the surrounding environment. When we arrived in the city of Jerez, the home to many of the major sherry winemakers (in the sherry triangle), a walk through the cellars of Bodegas Gonzalez Byass and Osborne Wines shows just how much history and passion goes into making one satisfying glass of wine.
I could bore you with the processes each of these great producers have to go through to create their quality products but, all in all I can tell you they had one thing is common: the passion they all have for what they do and how they do it. That’s what I wish everyone could see when they reach in the fridge at supermarkets.
Be thankful for these people!
And then there’s Iberian ham (Jamon Iberico)…
Oh, if you do eat meat and haven’t had Iberian ham, you are probably missing out (or not, who knows, we all have different tastes right?)
My first ever taste of this melt in your mouth ham was on a Twilight Soho Food Tour with Eating London tours, and never would have dream to visit the home of Iberian ham where pigs are required to be 100% pure bred Iberian pigs, wholly fed on an ancient species of acorn (the pigs will know it!) and its production process so well quality controlled that no other way will do!
A ham tasting session at Cinco Jotas in Jabugo, a place synonymous with Iberian ham, gave me my taste of ham heaven. There is a museum on site and you can buy as much of the jamon as you like direct from the source.
In conclusion, what does Andalucia taste like?
The campaign asks participants to ask: What does Andalucia tastes like? Many suggest that the region tastes like the sea, like the earth, like the berries and like ham.
I wan to say that Andalucia tastes like passion. A passion that has continued through the generations that has been there, a passion to continue to produce our favourite foods and a passion that I hope, will never go unnoticed by the generations to come.