History of Paella
We talked about paella weeks ago, the most important dish of our cuisine, known and served all over the world and whose name is not translated into any language, such as "siesta" or "tapas". That's why it deserves one and thousand posts and this one is dedicated to it again, the queen of our cuisine.
Paella is a traditional dish born in the rural areas of Valencia. The most curious to know, and most people that are not Valencian do not know (I am not and I discovered it with 20 years old), is that paella is the name of the container used to prepare it. A shallow and usually large diameter pan with handles on either side. There are two theories about the origin of the word paella, some say that comes from the French "poêle" and others from the Latin "patella", which means frying pan and was a word assimilated into Valencian language in the sixteenth century. It is believed that it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the name of the container was used to describe the dish. By the way, when you meet a Spaniard who calls the paella "paellera" it is not from Valencia; and vice versa, of course.
In many parts of the world rice is produced, the way of preparation is usually linked to local customs and other local ingredients. In China, for example, it is eaten mostly just cooked, in India, instead, they also put food coloring like us and have a rice of similar appearance (but the taste has nothing to do with the paella) which is called "pilaf" or "pilau”.
In Valencia rice has been cultivated for centuries, what it is more particular is that the paella was born as a farmer meal, like most traditional Spanish dishes (do you remember the gazpacho?). To explain the dish per se we can put ourselves in the farmers’ position and this will help us to understand its origin: first the paella (the container) was easy to transport to the area of tillage, second, the paella per se, a combination of rice, saffron, local vegetables, rabbit or chicken, was, believe it or not, quite easy to simmer in the farm and the ingredients were all readily available. In short, the paella began as a dish for farmers who were farming and has ended up being more famous than Christopher Columbus. Who would say!