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19th Century

Those who study Spanish in Spain, might well have their interestpeaked by the lovely beaches and enviable weather to be found in Spain, or even by the famous Spanish food. However it wasn't always like that. Spain received many visitors in the 19th century who traveled through the country and then described the Spanish gastronomic customs and dishes their travel books. Alexander Dumas made a long gastronomic voyage in some of Spain's regions, writing several notes about it in his popular gastronomy book. There were others too, the British Robert Ford, and French writers Prosper Mérimée and Théophile Gautier among others. However not everyone was a fan of Spanish cooking, and some chronicles have a rather negative tone, especially when referring to an excess of garlic and far too much oil

Cold drinks

The 19th century was one of great French influence in the Spanish cooking, due to many factors, including the Bourbon ruling dynasty who decided what was cooked in the courts kitchens. In many cases French recipe books were translated to Spanish while in France a renovation of the culinary arts called cuisine classique. In all honesty, it hardly affected the cuisine that was being served in the Spanish courts, who preferred to stick to the old cooking methods of the previous centuries.

Sadly the cookbooks used at the time were nothing more than mere translations from French to Spanish, and they did not contribute information about the Spanish gastronomic customs. There is a notorious difference, however, between the high class French style court gastronomy and the popular Spanish cooking served inns, eateries, lodges, taverns, public houses, etc. The lower classes gastronomy was grounded in centuries old traditions and received little or no influence from French cuisine. This kind of food was not the the taste of the travelers palates.

But there were places were the wealthier classes could eat too. It was their need for cold drinks, specially in Madrid, that contributed to the elaboration crushed ice drinks, such as sherbets, ice-creams and horchatas from Valencia. Cold drinks became all the rage in Spain, even though doctors could not decide on whether they should recommend or discourage their consumption.

In 1839 a new classy restaurant opened in the centre of the city of Madrid. It was called Lhardy, and it was among the first restaurants to offer a priced set menu, something that would eventually become a Spanish gastronomic custom. It became the place where the wealthy people of the court met at the end of the 19th century and you can still go there today if you ever decide to visit Madrid. Other establishments of a similar nature would soon follow and not only in Madrid, but in Barcelona too.

Cold drinks

Madrid cuisine began to be appreciated within the Spanish cooking, the cafes filled and soon they offered their own adaptations of French food. The railways began to carry a larger number of passengers to the large urban centers and regional capitals, and specially to Madrid and those passengers needed to eat. Seeing the opportunity and the importance of these potential clients, new restaurants sprouted like mushrooms as they became profitable thanks to this itinerant mass of people that traveled to the city.

But the 19th century brought even more changes. The automobile was invented and more people flowed in. For the first time nutritional concepts surged and became widespread. For the first time words such as calories, carbo-hydrates hydrates and vitamins entered the popular lexicon, which also meant change in diets as people start worrying about healthier food.

The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the next century saw the rise of a Spanish cookbooks. In 1917, a famous Spanish journalist wrote a book entitled 'La cocina práctica' (Practical Cooking), which soon became one of the most emblematic cookery books from Spain. However not everything was going so rosy for Spain, as it was during this time that the Spanish began losing their colonies. This had a notable effect on the gastronomy of the country too.

And yet, more was to come soon. If you want to know about how Spanish cuisine developed in the next century and beyond, why not check out our page on 20th Century Spanish Gastronomy.