Spaniards not only enjoy the flavor of olive oil, but they also believe that eating olive oil keeps them healthy. And they may be right. Scientists say a diet
rich in olive oil protects people from heart disease. That may be why the incidence of heart disease among Spanish women is the lowest in the world and why the Spanish people, in general, have one of the longest life expectancies on Earth.
Food and Medicine
Garlic is another important staple in Spanish cooking. Like olive oil, it not only tastes delicious, but it is also quite wholesome. For centuries, Spaniards considered it a cure-all and used the pungent herb not only to flavor food, but also to fight infection, treat respiratory and digestive illnesses, and repel evil spirits. Although garlic cannot do all these things, scientists have found that it has antibacterial properties and can indeed help fight infections. And when it is combined with olive oil, it releases a chemical that keeps blood clots from forming, which prevents heart attacks.
While Spaniards appreciate garlic’s medical value, it is the delicious flavor and aroma it adds to food that they adore. Three types of garlic grow in Spain: white, pink, and yellow. White is the strongest tasting, while pink is the mildest. Pink is the most popular garlic in Spain. Spanish cooks use garlic in a myriad of ways. It is pickled, roasted, fried, and eaten raw in salads. One of their favourite uses is in garlic soup. Spaniards have been eating this simple fragrant soup for centuries. It is made with water, garlic, and olive oil, then topped with a poached egg and toasted bread and served in traditional earthenware bowls known as cazuelas (cahs-way-lahs). Garlic is also the chief ingredient in alioli (ahl-eeol-ee) and sofrito (so-free-toe), two sauces that Spaniards love. Sofrito is made with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes. Similar to tomato sauce, it adds a sweet zesty flavor to stews and rice dishes. Alioli has a mayonnaise-like color and texture. The sauce is made by whisking olive oil with garlic, and it has a strong garlic flavor. Spaniards dip fried fish and seafood in it, marinate grilled foods in it, and dress potatoes with it. Says chef Marimar Torres: “It enhances
grilled meat and fish, and can also enliven the flavor of a dish by stirring in just a spoonful at the end.”2
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