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Current Spanish Cuisine?

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 

One of my chef instructors brought up something interesting in class the other day that made me want to look in to the subject. I personally haven't had the chance to visit very many Hispanic restaurants and I've only been limited to what's available in my area. While there is quite a large number of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants I'm not sure if what they serve are up to date with what other restaurants might be serving in Arizona, California, Mexico, etc. If anyone is working are eating in any of those areas I would love to know all about it.

post #2 of 50

Just to clarify, Rainliberty, are you looking for info on Spanish cuisine, or Latino? There are some rather distinct differences---as there are, btw, between Mexican and Tex-Mex.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 50
Thread Starter 

Well I guess Spanish cuisine as in from Mexico as opposed to cuisine from all Spanish speaking countries. Though I would be interested in any information regarding the two choices you provided.

post #4 of 50

To me. FWIW, "Spanish cuisine" refers to the cuisine of Spain and "Mexican cuisine" refers to the cuisine of Mexico and though there ARE some similarities, there are far more differences.

 

In Porterville, CA, we have a multitude of "Mexican restaurants" and a dearth of "Spanish restaurants". Actually, many of the "Mexican restaurants" are Guatemalan and  Ecuadorian rather than Mexican.

 

For you, as a "culinary student", my feeling is that it is important for you to differentiate cuisines and you "topic line", to me, is misleading.

 

From you post, you are really interested in the regional differences of Mexican, or possibly Latin American cuisine as offered in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. Is that correct?

 

To further "narrow it down", are you talking about "street food", like tacos, enchiladas, etc., or more upscale food such as that prepared by Rick Bayless?

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post #5 of 50

You confused yet, Rainliberty?

 

Understand, please, that we are not dumping on you. But as Pete tried to point out, although a home-cook can, maybe, get away with confusing cuisines you're going to be a professional. And, as such, it behooves you to be as correct as possible. And in that regard your post is ambiguous.

 

I'm curious as to exactly what your professor said that sparket the discussion.

 

With the proviso that there are numerous regional variations, in general, if you say "Spanish," you mean food that represents the cuisines of Spain. "Spanish," other than as a language, has little relationship to Latino or Hispanic foods. In fact, because of the commonality of language, the same word is often used to describe radically different dishes. F'rinstance, a Mexican tortilla is a flatbread. But a Spanish tortilla is an omelete-like dish (well, more like a fritatta than a classic omelete.)

 

"Latino" and "Hispanic" are generally used interchangeably to describe the vast region of Central and South America. Although there is no hard and fast rule, the Carribean, even though there are hispanic roots, is mostly considered as a separate region, because there are vast culinary influences that never, or hardly ever, touched the mainland. And specialized ingredients as well.

 

But you're really better off looking at specific countries when trying to focus in on a cuisine. For instance, while the countries of South America have much in common, they have much more that is unique to them---even before you start looking at regional differences within each country. So you might want to develop the habit of saying, "Brazilian," food, or "Argentinian," than saying Latino or South American.

 

Here endeth the sermon.

 

In terms of Mexican, per se, there really is a difference between most Mexican food and Tex-Mex food. You could almost think of Tex-Mex as being its own regional Mexican food.

 

Most Americans probably use "Mexican" and "Tex-Mex" as synonyms. The result is that, unless you have a Little Mexico in your town, any "Mexican" restaurant is most likely to cater to that viewpoint, and it's menu will reflect it.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 50
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the confusion on my part. The question my teacher asked was, "How many of you have ever eaten at a fine dining Spanish restaurant?". The conversation that followed after was mostly about Tex-Mex or chain restaurants (Los Charros, Frontera, etc) from my fellow students. I don't believe however that anyone had actually been to what I would consider an upscale restaurant. This made me want to find out if there was more to the cuisine than tacos and enchiladas. So to be specific, I want to learn more about the current foods from Mexico.

post #7 of 50
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the confusion on my part. The question my teacher asked was, "How many of you have ever eaten at a fine dining Spanish restaurant?". The conversation that followed after was mostly about Tex-Mex or chain restaurants (Los Charros, Frontera, etc) from my fellow students. I don't believe however that anyone had actually been to what I would consider an upscale restaurant. This made me want to find out if there was more to the cuisine than tacos and enchiladas. So to be specific, I want to learn more about the current foods from Mexico.

post #8 of 50
Thread Starter 

post #9 of 50

So now I'm even more confused.

 

If he said "Spanish," and what followed was a discussion about Tex-Mex, it's possible that your instructor doesn't understand the difference. And to me that's unconscionable!

 

If I were asked that question I would interpret it to mean an upscale restaurant serving Spanish food. That is, food representing the cuisine of Spain, or some region of it. Piperade, in San Francisco, might be an example.

 

If he meant "Mexican," that's what he should have specified. A fine-dining Mexican restaurant. Some of Rick Bayliss' places, perhaps, would qualify as that.

 

As to Tex-Mex, there are very few, if any, Tex-Mex restaurants I would class as fine-dining. Most of them are, by definition, family places---good food (albiet with a limited menu), reasonable prices, congenial atmosphere. They would, perhaps, be fine dining when compared to a taco stand or to many of the chains (Taco Bell is a lot of things, but fine dining ain't one of them!). But you don't expect candlelight and fine silver.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 50
Thread Starter 

Yes, that was the question my teacher asked. It wasn't however a topic that we were going over in class, but it somehow turned into a 30 minute discussion among the students. She may have meant food from Spain exactly but didn't elaborate. My fellow classmates brought Tex-Mex food in to the conversation, while I on the other hand wanted to know mostly about upscale Mexican cuisine. (ex. Frontera Grill)

post #11 of 50

IMHO "Spanish fine dining" is FAR removed from anything relating to Tex-Mex and/or Mexican/Latin American. Even Rick Bayless, I think, will agree that his restaurants are Mexican, not Spanish!

 

Although "Spanish" restaurants might serve a "tortilla", it would look nothing like a Mexican tortilla.

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post #12 of 50

Also an answer to the question of is there something else then a taco or enchilada in a fine dining Mexican place, yes. You will find that fish and chicken and good grilled beef and pork are a part of the cuisine. vegetables as well, cause it's also not all about rice and refried beans either.

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post #13 of 50

More than agree, Pete. Rick would, I believe, insist on it. He's not the one who's linguistically confused.

 

And the fact is, Mexican recipes of his for things like Octopus and Cactus Paddles in Escabeche and Smokey Chipotle Beans with Wilted Spinach and Masa "Gnocchi" are as far from a Tex-Mex burrito as they are from such upscale Spanish recipes as Oil-Poached Salt Cod with Alboronia, or Grilled Lamb Chops with Salsa de Pasitas Rojas and Fennel Salad.

 

My point being that Tex-Mex is a specialized cuisine of its own, which I think of as rustic, primarily street-food oriented, and heavily spiced. Not only is it not Spanish, it's not upscale Mexican either.

 

I think what we really have is a case of a teacher who either doesn't know the difference between "Spanish," "Mexican," and "Latino," or who doesn't care. Certainly if she actually meant Spanish she should have corrected the class as soon as the discussion wandered off. If, on the other hand, she's using "Spanish" and "Mexican" as synonyms, shame on her. Far as I'm concerned, that would make her unqualified for the job she's holding.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 50

Once you have this digested, we'll move on to regional Spainish cookery ;o)

post #15 of 50

Hold on, Pxatkins, you know there are only two: Basque---and all the others.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 50

I would not start with Basque cuisine as an example of Spanish cuisine. Surely if you asked a Basque what they think, they wouldn't identify their cuisine as an example of Spanish cuisine. Yes, there are Spanish influences to the Basque cuisine (from the south), just like there are French influences to the Basque cuisine (from the north). But I wouldn't call it Spanish anymore than I would call if French (ok, maybe a little more Spanish than French). A "poulet basquaise", for example, is considered a French regional dish and you will find it in many French culinary books as a typical French dish.

 

But Basque cuisine really is its own cuisine. Remember, you're talking about a people who have their own language, their own culture, their own music, their own dances, their own sport games... and certainly their own cuisine.

post #17 of 50

I was being facetious, FF.

 

But, overall, I would certain include Basque food as a regional cuisine of Spain. Not any different, in that regard, than Catalonan or any other region.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #18 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

I was being facetious, FF.


I know - I wasn't really addressing your latest post, but your earlier recommendation for look at Piperade, in SF, as an example. I should have included the quote to avoid confusion.

 

I see your point however re: Catalonia. I guess the Basque country is not the only one with a culture of its own, a language of its own and that spreads over both Spain and France. Just goes to show how highly regional cuisines from latin countries such as Spain, France and Italy can be. I mean I wouldn't think of Corsican cuisine as French cuisine, but it's not Italian cuisine either. And in a sense, Corcica's identity can be thought of as more clearly defined than the Basque country's identity or the Catalonia identity... Which makes it complicated to define a "Spanish" cuisine!

 

europe06.1145360100.basque_nationalism.jpg

 

catalonia-is-not-spain.jpg

post #19 of 50

Plus, Spanish cuisine is still emerging from the Franco repression. So what we see, on both the regional and national levels, is a rediscovery of traditional and artisan foods, on one hand, and the gee-whiz, cutting edge work of chefs like Ferran, on the other.

 

but your earlier recommendation for look at Piperade

 

I was trying to use a West Coast example, hoping the OP would know of it. But, more generally, any of Jose Andres' restaurants would typify Spanish fine dining.

 

Which makes it complicated to define a "Spanish" cuisine!

 

Or an Italian one. Or Greek. Or any other country that is, at best, a federation of culturally similar peoples. Or, worse, which are that plus having distinctive ethnic minorites. Is the food of the Montagnards part of Vietnamese regional cuisine? Is Algerian cuisine Berber, French. or Arabic? 

 

Where my people come from invaders raped their way through about every 20 years, leaving bits of their culture and cuisine behind. How do we go about identifying something that eclectic?

 

I wouldn't think of Corsican cuisine as French cuisine,......

 

What we have, in cases like that, is cuisine defined by politics. Because Cosica is part of France, we would identify a dish as being French, but in the Corsican style. However, because Malta is an independent country, we recognize the amalgum of Italian, Turkish, French, British, Tom, Dick, Harry and their girlfriends influences as forming a distinct Maltese cuisine. What if Malta was part of another country, though?

 

Which is one of the reasons I've always disliked "fusion" as a culinary term. IMO, all cuisines are fusion, and, as such, make that qualifier either redundant or ridiculous.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #20 of 50

Very interesting indeed.

 

Quote:
Is Algerian cuisine Berber, French. or Arabic?

 

And when you say Berber, do you mean Tuareg, Kabyl, or maybe the Jewish Berbers? There's just no end to it.

 

 

 

post #21 of 50

Interesting stuff, but we're wandering pretty far afield.  I think Jose Andres is a pretty good example of what's happening with modern Spanish cuisine in this country.

 

On the other hand, it's hard to put a finger on Rick Bayless's cuisine.  It's a lot more Mexican inspired than it is Mexican.  And I mean that in the same way I mean Jose Andres's cooking is Spanish as opposed to Spanish inspired.  Bayless's cooking is too chef-like and just too much Rick Bayless for me to call it Mexican.  That's not an indictment or anything, just an opinion.  It's fair to say that it's a very broad, fuzzy line and Bayless is somewhere on it which is a way of not taking a stand -- but there you go.  Bayless is great, so is his cooking, but there's something about the way he's viewed as the God of Mexican Food that makes me squirm. 

 

There's just so much good Mexican cooking that's been here for so long, for so long the cuisine has been undervalued, and then this pinche gabacho comes along, and...  well, it's just not fair.  I can't help wonder if it isn't slightly racist, but that could just be my paranoia. 

 

And, fwiw, I see "south-western" cuisine -- with Tex-Mex as a subset -- as being more authentically Mexican than Bayless.  But that's how you find it, I suppose. 

 

Quite often the Mexican food you get here in el Norte, especially along the border, is very much influenced by the areas producing most of the immigration.  Mexican "street food" by which I suppose you guys are mostly talking about tacos, burritos, sopes, gorditas, and the like actually has a lot more in common with "real" Mexican food than many of the dishes on the menu in the "American" oriented Mexican restaurants which cover everything with tons of melted cheese.   

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/28/10 at 6:27pm
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post #22 of 50

There's just no end to it.

 

Exactly.

 

It's also why I get so amused whenever the question of authenticity is argued.

 

I didn't know there were still Jewish Berbers. Thought that alliance had come to an end around 700 CE.  Another interesting subculture in Algeria, though, is the Pied Noir---the French Sepharadic community, which has its own distinctive cuisine as well.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #23 of 50

And here I thought the Pied Noir were a First Nation tribe from the Big Sky country and southern Alberta.  Oh well.  

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/29/10 at 11:00am
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post #24 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

I didn't know there were still Jewish Berbers. Thought that alliance had come to an end around 700 CE.  Another interesting subculture in Algeria, though, is the Pied Noir---the French Sepharadic community, which has its own distinctive cuisine as well.

 

And that would be where all my culinary inspiration came from! My family is pied noir. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 we're wandering pretty far afield.

 

My apologies.

post #25 of 50

    Perhaps a better way to look at it may be to define a cuisine by the regional goods, not the specific dishes that it's made into to.  Regional cuisine could be thought of as food cooked with all things regional to that area.  Yet the way current chefs use those ingredients may be an interpretation of the current times. 

 

 

 

       What you do with the ingredients is, and always has been, up to the person cooking the food.

 

 

 

Quote:
It's also why I get so amused whenever the question of authenticity is argued.

Oh KYH...I know you get amused.  But...

 

 I can still see good reason to seek out classical interpretations of regional cuisine.  It may be true that it can be hard to nail down...and many times it can be impossible.  My view is that I believe there is value in something that has stood up to the test of time.  But, many times we (society) get lazy and seek out ways that may be easier or what we believe is more "current".  While doing this I don't believe we're always serving in our own best interest.  This is why I do find value in seeking out a quality (sometimes classical) interpretation of how to treat the ingredients in certain preparations, over accepting today's standard with no investigation.  

 

   Probably one of the most important things I learn when I seek out an authentic recipe is usually good technique.  Learning the technique is what allows me to step outside of the recipe, yet retain confidence to the dish.

 

  KYH, I just want you to know...I'm ok if you're still amused 

 

  dan

post #26 of 50

 

 

 

 

Quote:
One of my chef instructors brought up something interesting in class the other day that made me want to look in to the subject. I personally haven't had the chance to visit very many Hispanic restaurants and I've only been limited to what's available in my area. While there is quite a large number of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants I'm not sure if what they serve are up to date with what other restaurants might be serving in Arizona, California, Mexico, etc. If anyone is working are eating in any of those areas I would love to know all about it.

 

   I have to admit, I'm another one who was excited to see a thread on Spanish food.    

 

     I don't know if I'd worry so much about a restaurant serving food that's up to date, current, or cutting edge.  What I care about is execution...and the quality of a dish.  It doesn't matter if it's fine dinning, a franchised place, a small diner, street food or a smoker sitting in the front yard.  It's all about execution.

 

  I suppose I've eaten at fine dining Mexican restaurants, I've also eaten the street food in Mexico and in Chicago.  All of them can be very good.

 

  Tex-Mex?  I just haven't really been exposed to anything I would call good Tex-Mex.  I'm guessing it may be due to my location???

 

   take care,

 dan

 

 

 

 

 

post #27 of 50

IMHO, there is a huge difference between "classical", "authentic", and "typical", and they are NOT synonyms!

 

Classical = dishes that have stood the "test of time" and are still replicated, albeit sometimes to weird extremes

 

Authentic = a recipe, of questionable credibility, handed down as scribbled on a piece of brown paper bag by someone's great-aunt

 

Typical = whatever the writer thinks "fits the bill"

 

Now, TBS, professionals "in the game" should be able to differentiate cuisines by many factors, not the least of which is country/region of origin and whether the dish is "street-food", typical home food, or "restaurant food", and they are NOT always the same nor often even similar.

 

Now, IMHO:

 

  • Spanish refers to Spain, and
  • Mexican refers to Mexico, and
  • El Salvadorian refers to El Salvador, and
  • Guatemalan refers to Guatemala, and
  • Latin American refers to those countries in Central America, and
  • South American refers to those countries in South America, including Venezuela, Peru, Uruguay,  Paraguay, Chile, Brazil, Argentina (and I probably forgot one or two), and
  • Tex-Mex refers to the Americanization of Northern Mexico "street-food"

 

TBIAAOF!

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post #28 of 50

Interesting stuff, but we're wandering pretty far afield. 

 

Oh, yeah, like that's never happened before.

 

I can still see good reason to seek out classical interpretations of regional cuisine.  

 

Dan, I have absolutely no problems with this concept.

 

Keep in mind, though, that I never said "classic." "Classic" and "authentic" are not synonyms, as Pete points out.

 

What amuses me are the arguments that rage about whether a particular recipe or group of recipes is authentically (enter ethnic or regional cuisine of choice). These are usually fruitless debates that, more often than not, merely highlight that the proponents (often identified as experts or authorities)know considerably less about that cuisine than they think. Or they have blinders on, that causes them to see the cuisine backwards----that is, they see a regional or other variation not as a subset, but as the whole thing. And anything that doesn't fit that variation is "inauthentic." As well as the opposite, of course.

 

My favorite in this regard is when people argue that Italo/American food is not authentically Italian. Or, to put a point on it, that Tex-Mex is not authentic Mexican. Gimme a break!

 

You also have to consider legitimate changes over time, as that can easily affect what is meant by "classic." For instance, classic gazpacho is a white soup, usually made with almonds, but sometimes garbanzos. It wasn't until the 16th century, when tomatoes were introduced from the New World, that it became a red soup.

 

Now, for most folks, 500 years is more than long enough for something to become a classic. But would you argue that one or the other of those is more authentically Spanish? I sure wouldn't.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #29 of 50

My family is pied noir.

 

I had no idea. I'd like to discuss this more, as it's a culture I only recently found out about, and it fascinates me. But we can handle that via PMs.

 

Your family experience supports my point about authenticity. Let's trace the diaspora. They came to the New World, and settled in California (did they come through Canada originally?), where they found a world of new ingredients, and a shortage of some they were used to. So what they did was adapt; interpreting the old dishes using new ingredients. In effect, a sub-subset of Algerian cuisine.

 

My contention is that the traditional dishes your mother makes in LA are just as authentically Algerian as those made by the best chef in Algiers. And that anyone who argues that they aren't doesn't understand the evolutionary nature of all cusines.  

 

The pied noir experience also highlights another part of the regional cuisine issue we haven't explored; to wit: the differences, if any, between urban and rural interpretations of the cuisine. Because the pied noir were, essentially, urban, their foodways are more typically French than, say, Berber or Arabic. But the sophisticated foods of Algiers and the more simple foods of the desert, are both authentically Algerian.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #30 of 50

Perhaps a better way to look at it may be to define a cuisine by the regional goods, not the specific dishes that it's made into to.

 

This would be an interesting approach, Dan, providing that, 1. historically humans hadn't been so mobile, and 2. political boundaries weren't arbitrary.

 

You don't even have to go to foreign climes like Italy or Greece to see how quickly that concept runs into trouble. Just look at California. Here's a state that stretches 1,000 miles and encompasses at least five major environmental regions. To use your approach, there could never be such a thing as California cuisine; there would have to be five (or more) different ones, all of which were contained in the politically arbitrary region called California. Superimposed over all five would be the various immigrant influences. The culinary viewpoint of, say, the Spanish missionaries, would have been interpreted one way in the deserts, another in each of the coastal regions, still differently in the central valley.

 

What marks a cuisine, I believe, is how food is looked at by the members of the particular culture. It's not the specific dishes that mark, say, Italian food. It's how an Italian (whatever that means) would typically look at the foodstuffs that are available, and use them to prepare a final dish.

 

Granted, that viewpoint has its limitations, too, particularly in the Federation-type nations. But I think this approach comes closer to the idea that Pete implies: that by tasting a dish, the knowledgeable palatte should be able to identify the basic cuisine not so much by the specific ingredients, but by how they were handled; by how they reflect the culinary viewpoint that marks that cuisine.  

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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