Food, Culture, and Alicante


With food tourism trending around the globe, more and more people are seeing the deep connections between local cuisine and culture, history, identity, and everyday life. Tasting the local food is one of the easiest ways for Spanish learners of all levels to participate in the culture and discover a world of new flavors.

For example, it’s almost impossible to learn Spanish in Alicante without enjoying

With food tourism trending around the globe, more and more people are seeing the deep connections between local cuisine and culture, history, identity, and everyday life. Tasting the local food is one of the easiest ways for Spanish learners of all levels to participate in the culture and discover a world of new flavors.

For example, it’s almost impossible to learn Spanish in Alicante without enjoying some of its typical rice dishes (and who would want to miss trying them?) Read on to learn about how rice first came to Spain, why it was banned centuries ago, and which modern rice dish to order when you’re in Alicante, depending on your personality.

History

One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit Alicante is the abundance of arrocerías, restaurants that specialize in rice dishes. No matter where you’re from, you’ve probably heard of paella, by far the superstar when it comes world-famous Spanish food. But something you might not know is that the history of rice in Spain goes back over a thousand years.

When the Moors came to Hispania from North Africa in the 8th century, they brought several crops (and sophisticated techniques for cultivating them) that would forever change the face of Spanish cuisine. Almonds (almendras), artichokes (alcachofas), apricots (albaricoques), basil (albahaca) and, of course, rice (arroz) were all introduced by the Moorish inhabitants of Al-Andalus.

Did you notice that almost all of the Spanish words mentioned above start with “al”? That’s because they came to the Spanish language from Arabic, where “al” means “the.” Arroz is the exception, which evolved from the Persian word for rice, orz, to which the Moors added the prefix “al”. Al-orz evolved into ar-orz and ar-ruz, which eventually became arroz.

The wetlands between Valencia and Alicante are ideal for growing rice. That is thanks in part to the Romans, who set up the area’s first basic irrigation system, but mostly to the Moors, who greatly refined the system and transformed the local landscape.

After the Christian Reconquista, it was believed that the rice fields were linked to public health problems, and rice cultivation was banned in Spain multiple times between the 15th and 18th centuries. Thankfully, the practice of growing rice was never completely wiped out, and in the end, rice came out on top. Today rice is beloved in all of Spain and especially in the Valencian Community, where Alicante is located. In fact, there are three types of rice (Senia, Bahía y Bomba) that have a Protected Designation of Origin called Arroz de Valencia.

 

Rice Dishes for Every Personality

The next time you’re looking for a delicious way to enjoy the sunny weather in Alicante, grab a few friends from your Spanish classes at Enforex and treat your taste buds! Don’t worry if you’ve befriended some picky eaters: rice is nice for all kinds of diets.

First of all, rice is naturally gluten free and dairy free. Also, there are so many different types you’re sure to find something that pleases each and every one of your friends.

The traditionalist

The classic paella Valenciana is made with green beans, lima beans, rabbit, chicken, and sometimes snails.

The vegan or vegetarian

Many restaurants offer a paella de verduras, which may include green beans, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, and other vegetables. To confirm the dish is completely meat and seafood-free, make sure to ask if the rice is cooked with caldo de verdura (vegetable broth).

The adventurous eater

Seafood lovers are spoiled for choice, thanks to Alicante’s seaside location on the Costa Blanca. Just be aware that you’ll have to pick some critters out of your rice and peel them before eating! Paella de marisco often has prawns or shrimp (maybe even the local red prawn from Dénia if you’re lucky!), mussels, clams, and squid. Arroz negro has shrimp or prawns and squid plus squid ink, which gives it its characteristic black color.

The princess

If the thought of peeling shrimp at the table makes you squirm, try arroz del senyoret. All the seafood in the rice comes peeled and ready to eat, so you don’t have to get your hands dirty.

The soup lover

Those who like their rice to have some liquid in it will love arroz meloso (a little liquid) or arroz caldoso (lots of liquid).

Enjoy!

Once you order, you’ll have to wait at least 30 minutes for the rice to be ready. This will give you some extra time to practice your Spanish conversation skills with your friends or go over flashcards for your upcoming DELE exam. Remember that for Spaniards, lunch is the most important meal of the day, so rice dishes are traditionally eaten for lunch, not dinner.

When you finally take your first bite, close your eyes as you join the rice-eating tradition that came to Spain so many centuries ago. History has never tasted so good!

https://www.enforex.com/espanol/escuela-alicante.html

https://www.fedelecv.org/

https://www.fedelecv.org/en/legal-notice/

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