by Janet Mendel
Andalucia’s trademark food, is a cold soup or liquid salad made with fresh, raw vegetables.
Gazpacho, in one form or another, is nearly as old as these hills. It probably derives from a Roman dish, a gruel of bread and oil. The name gazpacho may come from the Latin caspa, meaning fragments or little pieces, referring to the breadcrumbs which are such an essential ingredient. The Moorish influence is evident too, especially in some of the variations on the basic theme, such as ajo blanco, made with ground almonds.
Of course, none of those forerunners of gazpacho contained tomatoes, considered basic today. That’s because tomatoes were unknown in Spain, until after the discovery of the New World. Read more about Gazpacho history.
Gazpacho belongs especially to Andalusia, southern Spain. Here day labourers working in vineyards, olive plantations, citrus groves, wheat fields or cork forests were given rations of bread and oil for their meals. Bread soaked in water made a simple soup, to which was added oil, garlic and salt for flavour, plus whatever fresh vegetables were available--tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the summer. Everything was pounded together in a mortar or dornillo, a large wooden bowl. Gazpacho provided nourishment, quenched the thirst, and sustained a body working in the hot sun.
From these humble beginnings, gazpacho has become quite the cosmopolite, appearing on the menus of sophisticated restaurants in many parts of the world. Recipes which appear abroad sometimes call for tomato juice, beef broth, ketchup or chili-hot salsa. Unfortunately, something is lost in the translation--namely, the freshness of gazpacho made with raw ingredients.
Cooking in Spain
This is not to say you can’t experiment with the basic gazpacho. For instance, chopped basil--which no self-respecting Andalusian housewife would add to gazpacho--is a nice addition, and a dash of piquant chili or Tabasco adds pizzazz. Some innovative chefs have turned gazpacho into something else altogether with the addition of prawns, lobsters, clams.
A Spanish refrain says, De gazpacho no hay empacho--there’s never too much gazpacho. It hits the spot any time of the day or night--a mid-morning snack, a starter at lunch, an afternoon refresher, an evening’s supper. It travels well--take it on a picnic. Should there be any gazpacho leftover, use it as a salad dressing or let it come to room temperature and toss with hot pasta.
Click here too see our full range of Gazpacho recipes.