January 16, 2014–Maggie Hennessy, writing for Food Navigator-USA.com says, “Foods from the Mediterranean Rim have been growing in popularity since at least the mid-1990s, reinforced by Americans’ seemingly insatiable appetite for flavors from Italy, Spain and Greece.”
She goes on to comment on the two-way influence this trend in its maximum expression–the Mediterranean diet–has on “chefs and food manufacturers.” That’s funny, as we thought one of the secrets of the Med diet was to shun manufactured food. It seems that our adoption of new food sensations is a five-step process. It’s an interesting concept.
(Above, the preparation of a paella valenciana “como Dios manda,” “as God commands”). Gastronomically speaking Valencia has it all. It’s not only Spain’s premier rice growing region but it’s also renowned for “la huerta” which provides them–and much of Europe–with a wealth of year-round truck crops. The dryer inland areas produce olive oil. Then, of course, there’s the fish and shellfish from Valencia’s Mediterranean coast. Take note, however, you won’t find any of those sea beasties frolicking on the top of an authentic, down-home paella valenciana. (See authentic list of ingredients here.) Valencia even exports a lot of wine, though most Spaniards are not aware of that fact.
Gwyneth is in heaven as the road trip heads to Valencia, a paella–lover’s paradise. Mario and Gwyneth spread a blanket out on a wild Mediterranean dune and swap stories about their long histories with Spain. Both had the rare opportunity to come here as adolescents and never got Spain out of their blood. Meanwhile, Mark and Claudia tour Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic City of Arts and Sciences.
Gwyneth and Mario venture into the rice fields of the Albufera to learn to cook a surprisingly non-traditional, seemingly market-driven seafood paella valenciana made with onions and seafood by a grumpy Zen Master Paellero, then eat it with the family. The four pilgrims are reunited at the end of the day over a dinner of broadbean secrets and canned tapas at local bar, Casa Montaña. The final leg of the road trip heads to Madrid for a drive around the city looking at skyscrapers. More…