A Taste Of History

Today some friends from a neighbouring village came over to see us and take up to a restaurant in the nearby hamlet of El Acebuchal about seven kilometres from Frigiliana. It is approached by way of a narrow twisting road climbing up into the mountains, so I was relieved that John was driving, especially as he has a four by four. In fact the road is part of the ancient mule train route through the mountains from the coast to Granada. The hamlet was a stop along the route for the muleteers to get food and drink before continuing on their way. It grew up during the seventeenth century and was inhabited up to 1949.
Following the end of the Spanish Civil War a large group of communist fighters retreated into the surrounding mountains from where they conducted a guerrilla campaign against the army and Guardia Civil. There are different versions of the part played by the inhabitants of El Acebuchal, but the outcome was that in1949 they were all evicted by the Guardia Civil and the place gradually collapsed into a collection of ruins. Then in 1998 one couple who had moved to Frigiliana finally got permission to begin a rebuilding programme which was completed in 2005, though a number of houses remain unrestored. Antonio and Virtudes also reopened and ran the bar, although they have now pretty much retired and their son, also Antonio, has taken over. By coincidence, Antonio (senior) and Virtudes still live in Frigiliana, two doors away from us; but I had never before been to their bar/restaurant, our destination today.
I knew that the menu focused on local game which is abundant in these mountains - rabbit, mountain goat, wild boar and deer, plus chicken, pork (no rural home was without its chickens and its pig in days gone by) and locally grown vegetables so I was expecting these meats cooked 'a la parrilla  ' (over coals) or 'a la plancha ' (on the griddle), as elsewhere. Not so. This was the traditional cooking of the sierras, hearty stews cooked in wood-fired ovens. Our friends each chose the chicken, my wife opted for oxtail and I went for the rabbit. Each had its own distinctive rich, dark sauce, beautifully spiced to complement the particular meat which just fell off the bone. Only one word will adequately describe those sauces; unctuous.
So it was a great lunch, but also a fascinating insight into the history of this region. The spice combinations were typical of the Maghreb, the North African countries of Morocco, Tunisia, Lybia and Algeria. This was cooking brought with them to Al Andalusia, by the Berber tribes which invaded the Peninsula via Gibraltar (Gibr Al Tariq) way back in the eighth century. As my title says - a taste of history.

1 comment:

  1. I shouldnt have read this after having no breakfast, all i can think about now is food!