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12 August 2019

Curious facts about gastronomy from 1905 to today

We have gone back to 1905 because that was the year in which BOJ was founded. It was a difficult year for most of the population, with widespread poverty and famine as a result of the social and political situation in Spain at that time. But let’s not get side-tracked by such issues here. We want to look exclusively at gastronomic matters.

Speaking of matter, what people had available to cook at that time would not even reach the level of what we think of as staple products. Most people were forced to eat potato peel and the white part of oranges, or in other words, the bits we now throw away when we cook potatoes or eat oranges.

According to some studies, at that time the average daily intake was 770 calories per person, while the current recommended intake is 2,200 calories. Typical dishes from that time were stews and soups that could be eaten by lots of people. The most important thing was to survive and use as little energy as possible. Fortunately, this situation did not last forever and things became easier in the 1940s and 1950s. It was then that the Mediterranean diet began to become established.

Seafood, and especially fish, are essential parts of this diet. The funny thing is that they were reviled years ago.

Some products have seen a radical change in how they are perceived by consumers. When we think of seafood today what comes to mind, in addition to its flavour, is the price. However, seafood was thrown out or given away in Galicia at the beginning of the 20th century. The large quantity of it and the limited infrastructure made it impossible to transport it inland in good condition, which led to the invention of some curious solutions. Seafood was often used as a fertiliser, due to its high level of calcium. At other times it was given to the poor so that they could either eat it or exchange it for a handout. Apparently, it was also regularly fed to prisoners. In any case, the situation was very different to today.

It is a similar story for fish. Another surprising recipe is the stew called “caldereta”, a typical dish in different parts of Spain, especially the Balearic Islands. The different variants are made with rice and a mixture of fish. This dish was seen as a poor man’s dish, as it was prepared with what was left over after a day of fishing and selling, or in other words, with the fish that nobody wanted. However, nowadays it is a very popular dish served in specialised restaurants.

Today, gastronomy places much more importance on details, textures and flavours. We have many more types of food, recipes and, above all, much more knowledge at our fingertips. Moreover, eating is not seen simply as a necessity, but as a social activity, a pleasant experience and a way of discovering different cultures.

Like gastronomy, cooking utensils have also changed over the years. Nowadays we are more prepared for cooking and have many more options.

Looking back over history, we can assume that new food types will appear in the future along with new cooking utensils. At BOJ, we constantly monitor changes in society, its new needs and innovations to materials.