They all brought with them elements of their own cooking which lingered and blended with Spain's culinary heritage. Imports from the New World included the tomato, potato, sweet potato, vanilla, chocolate, several varieties of beans, zucchini, and the peppers' range. There is an abundance of olives, vineyards and citrus fruit.
Cuisine in the Iberian Peninsula echoes the cooking of the Middle East (honey and cumin) and that of the Americas (dishes combining meat with chocolate). Yet, essentially, it is family cooking, comparatively simple to prepare but characterised by fresh ingredients. Besides meat, poultry, game, and fish entrees, there is a wealth of dishes featuring beans, rice, eggs, vegetables, and savory pies that make a meal. Tapas (small morsels or appetizers in great variety) play a role in meals throughout the day.
Spanish life-style is vastly different from Americans'. A typical dining pattern involves a light breakfast at 8 a.m.; a mid-morning breakfast at 11 a.m.; tapas at 1 p.m. with a three-course lunch following at 2 to 3 p.m.; a merienda for tea and pastries or a snack at 5 to 6 p.m.; evening tapas at 8 p.m. or later, and a three-course supper at 10 p.m.
The two main meals of the day, (la comida, or lunch, and la cena, dinner) are no less opulent because of in-between snacks.
We happen to be on the Costa del Sol, in Andalucia, to the south. A dry region, best suited to grape vines and olive trees.
It is the land of salads, fried fish and seafood and the famous cold soup gazpacho (cold Andalucian soup made with tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers in olive oil, vinegar and garlic), not to mention sherry. Frituras (servings of small fried fish) and other famous dishes which include sardines and tortilla (Spanish omelet).
It is a very healthy, wholesome and uncomplicated cuisine such as the Parillada, which is a selection of fish and seafood, cooked griddled on a "plancha", served drizzled with olive oil, garlic, lemon and parsley.
The Pescado a la sal, consists of a whole fish wrapped in a block of sea salt and baked in the oven. Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) is no more than rice with black beans and which remind of the strong and long Arab influence in Andalucia.
The Arabs and Moors left a very strong influence in dessert making, introducing almonds, egg yolks, and honey. Orange and lemon zest also plays a role in flavoring sweets. Ground almonds often replace flour in cake baking and beaten egg whites are invariably the leavening agent in cakes.
Contrary to general belief, Paella is not an Andalucian dish. The true home of paella is Valencia, where the climate is more favours the growing of rice and where it is made with chicken and/or rabbit.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most nutritionally healthy in the world, so while we live on the Southern Coast of Spain and even benefiting from the influence of the Atlantic, it is a wise thing to make the most of it and get away from tinned, frozen and processed foods.