March 27th is the annual observance of National Spanish Paella Day. A rice dish from Spain, paella has become very popular and is known around the world. It originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.
- At lunchtime, workers in the fields would make the rice dish in a flat pan over a fire. They mixed in whatever they could find – such as rabbits, snails, and vegetables. Later, for special occasions, chicken was added.
- Paella is primarily eaten at lunchtime, because it is considered too heavy for dinner.
- Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish. Most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
- The Spanish rice dish ‘Paella’ takes its name from the pan it is cooked in, which in turn comes from the Latin word for ‘pan’ or ‘dish.’
- It appears that it wasn’t until 1840, when a local newspaper published an article on the regional speciality, that the word ‘paella’ was used to refer to the dish itself, not just the pan in which it was prepared.
- One sign of a good paella is the depth of the rice-based preparation in the pan: Valencians say that it should be no more than ‘un ditet‘ or ‘a little finger.’ The reason being that as the stock tends to run to the bottom of the pan, the grains of rice in contact with the pan surface are those with the most flavor.
- The word “paella” in fact derives from the Valencian name for the pan in which this rice dish is cooked – a word which in turn comes from the Latin word “patella” for pan.
- This can get somewhat confusing in the rest of Spain however, where the word “paellera” is more commonly (incorrectly) used for the pan, while “paella” is reserved for the dish itself.
- Then of course there is the word “paellero,” which refers to the person preparing this delicacy.
- Rice has been cultivated in Spain for more than a thousand years. It was introduced to Europe by the Arabs who farmed it in the wetlands along the Spanish Mediterranean coast in the 8th century.
- It is important to use short, round-grained Spanish rice when making paella, which expands lengthwise as it cooks and absorbs a lot of liquid.
- The dish Paella is said to be a perfect union between 2 cultures from Spain, the Romans, for the pan and the Arab, that brought rice.
- Valencian restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world’s largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001.
- This paella fed about 110,000 people