Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1752

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General Observations on Spanish Cookery, with Recipes for typical Spanish Dishes.

The food supply of Spain as regards meat and fish is less abundant than that of many other European countries. Little pasturage is to be found in the entire breadth of the country, consequently dairy products are scarce and butter is almost unknown. The flesh of cattle two years old, which is something between veal and beef, but tougher than either, is the most common meat. Poultry is very lean, rather tough and very expensive. Such vegetables as cabbage, marrows, beans, peas, and lettuce are plentiful, but carrots, parsnips and broad beans are only grown in private gardens and are more or less regarded as luxuries.

In southern Spain, where women live in almost Oriental seclusion, men sell the produce, and the markets are filled with their loud voices as in excitable tones each man offers grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and oranges at a lower price than his neighbour.

In the north the markets are more picturesque, for the produce is sold by the straight-featured Basque women who come in from the neighbouring farms. The produce consists principally of fruit and vegetables, which they pile in long rows and decorate with flowers. The little bunches of pink, yellow, purple and red flowers are arranged without the least regard to colour, yet, nevertheless, have a bright and pleasing effect.

Housekeeping in Spain is primitive and cooking a very simple affair. Every family buys just enough potatoes or beans each day for one dinner, cooks and eats them all, and the next day does the same thing over again. The kitchens are almost bare of utensils with which to cook. Even rolling pins and bread boards are unknown, for both bread and pastry are obtained from the bakery. The bread, by the way, is close grained, its almost solid condition being due to the excessive kneading it receives.

Notwithstanding the limited markets and the primitive methods of cooking many of their frugal national dishes are extremely palatable. The most distinctively Spanish dish, "berga," appears as the first