Pisto is the best-o

Despite being positioned on the Mediterranean, Spanish food is surprisingly dissimilar to the “Mediterranean Diet” as meat and starches are the modern culinary staples. Intrigued, I decided to search for a vegetable-based Spanish dish, and stumbled across the humble pisto.

Born in the Castilla la Mancha region, debate surrounds the origins of the dish, with some dating it to Arabic influences of the 800s, and others crediting the Moors with its introduction.

The “correct” version of pisto includes onion, garlic, tomato, eggplant, peppers (red and green), zucchini, salt, pepper and olive oil, which combine to make a vegetable stew. Thank you Kanela Flamenco Bar! 

As Ashley et al. note, national diets are subject to change over time as they are exposed to external influences, and pisto is testament to this — whether it was Moorish or Arabic people who introduced it, pisto now includes a Columbian discovery, the tomato.

Local Spanish food identity involves dishes having short infrastructural supply chain, with the required ingredients grown in one’s orchard, picked, finely diced, and stewed to flavourful perfection, thus maintaining Spanish flavour principles (Belasco, 2008).

Kanela Flamenco Bar offers a pisto tapa, served simply in a small terracotta tapas pot, which reflects a distortion in authentic consumption — tapas are (normally) a free accompaniment to drinks at a bar, and are rarely as complex or large as pisto.

Nonetheless, pisto is widely consumed across the Spanish territories, reaching national importance and thus contributing to Spanish food identity. Slight regional variations exist, with Mallorca referring to pisto as tumbet, and preparing the dish differently.

Internationally, however, the summery taste of a well-made pisto has come to be associated with the French ratatouille. When the dish made it to France, it was refined and codified; this process, alongside the dissemination of French cooking and French culinary hegemony, led to pisto’s fame being superseded by that of ratatouille. Having tried both, I would honestly have trouble distinguishing between the two, were it not for the herbes de provence found in the French dish.

Doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy ours! We ate it in 0.000001 seconds.

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