Meals take many formats in Spain and in Valencia there are some really fantastic dishes including, of course, the famous paella. Valencia is home of the paella and its countless versions.
Why is the paella such a famous dish and what contribution does it make to being a social experience? Well it is such a famous dish because it is relatively easy to make and you can use all kinds of ingredients. The recipe for Paella Valenciana is as varied as there are towns and villages in the beautiful Mediterranean region of Valencia. Each town has their own recipe.
In terms of being a social dish, well, it is a very good dish for getting people to socialise and interact for a couple of reasons:
a) The preparation, if it is at home, is often done outdoors making a focal point for people to gather round and watch the ingredients going in, one by one. So people discuss the ingredients, the cooking technique and whatever suits, making the whole thing more of an experience than just a meal put on the table. You get to see and share the cooking experience.
b) The most impressive thing though is that it was and still is in many households, traditional for everyone to eat from the paella pan. So everybody is literally sharing their food together. More of a social experience is almost impossible. The sharing of food from a common pan gives the meal an extra facet immediately giving everyone something in common,something to share. No one gets more or less and there is a communal, familiar and fun atmosphere around the table. Although most people nowadays drink their wine from a glass before it was also common for a “porron”( a jug of wine with a very narrow spout) to be passed around and each person would literally pour a spurt of wine into his or her mouth without touching the spout or spilling the wine (in theory as in practice it is a different story!).
Another tasty and fun dish in Valencia are Arroz al Horno (Oven cooked Rice) which is an unusually meaty dish because the ingredients besides rice,chick peas are black pudding,pork rib in small pieces and small spicy meatballs. This dish is cooked in the oven in a rough clay dish, a very typical and very tasty way to cook the recipe.It is also a dish that can be shared from the cooking dish.
The Spanish value their family above all else and the Sunday get together always reflects the importance they give to their family relationships and food is central to the reunions. The preparation and the eating are almost ritualistic and the food is always of an excellent quality and variety and with plenty of vegetables.
One of the great Spanish stalwarts of the cooking world is the “tapa”. This varied,creative and fun way to eat is what makes Spain so special for the thousands of foodies who descend on the country every year to taste their way round some of the best parts of Spain; experiencing the Spanish way of life, the culture and the atmosphere close up in bars,restaurants and homes. Tapas are the ultimate sharing food. You all eat your tapas from the same plate and share your impressions and opinions. That exchange of information, that shared enjoyment of food is key to relaxed communication and fun. New tastes, foods, and wines are shared and another little part of Spain is discovered.