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The Great Tortilla Debate

When we first arrived in Arcos de la Frontera (Cadiz province), some 14 years ago, its fair to say we knew no one, had no knowledge of local culture and our Spanish was minimal. So, in a bid to remedy  this, we developed a simple strategy; choose and frequent a local bar, sit at said bar (Brian calls this “bellying up to the bar”), drink sherry/beer and start a conversation…

Our choice was Bar La Parilla (the Grill).

It soon became clear that our Andalusian cousins love to talk about food, which was lucky because so do we and this was about as far as our vocabulary stretched at the time (survival skills learnt from menus)!

I will never forget the rainy lunchtime I innocently enquired of the man sat next to me (whom I came to learn was called Angel), whether or not a Spanish omelette should contain onion. Oh boy, did a heated debate ensue (I now know how to cause a diversion in an Andalusian bar, if ever required)…the rights and wrongs of such a staple ingredient, you would not believe! You would think I had suggested something abominable, such as adding chorizo to a paella (only joking, Jamie Oliver, if you’re reading)!

Angel (a fully grown man), phoned his mother to ask her (he knew the answer, he just wanted me to hear it from the horse’s mouth). Another grizzly old fella produced a well-worn (I’m being polite) recipe from the recesses of his wallet – handed down through his wife’s family. I was then dragged (happy but confused) to the kitchen for a demonstration…which was handy because the level of debate in the bar was getting pretty “passionate”…

So, I fairly quickly got to learn that the answer in these parts was a resounding “no”! Brian got to learn some fruity new vocab and I got a cookery lesson. Happily we made some new friends that day  and also accepted an invite to Angel’s house for his mother’s tortilla – result!!!

Suffice it to say, when we had our tapas bar, Andaluz, I hedged my bets a bit…. On a weekly basis I would produce half a dozen or so “standard”, ie onion free, tortillas (the recipe taught to me by my friend Isabel of Bar Poseidon) and several “specials”, which would involve Manchego cheese and caramelised onion. I felt that would keep everyone (in Arcos) happy if they were ever to find out!

This video/article came up on my Facebook feed today and reminded me of this day. It also reminded me of a trip to Cordoba, where massive tortillas are “a thing”. This guy produces one containing 180 eggs, every Friday. Just for fun, I think! We went to Bar Santos, which is also famous for its (not quite so) large tortillas. I can’t promise you they are the best tortillas you will eat, but certainly the largest! The funny thing is, I can’t remember whether or not they contained onion!!!


We’d love to hear you’re thoughts on this particular issue of contention – have your say on our Facebook poll; onion or no onion!




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