According to Wikipaella –A non-profit association of cultural diffusion formed by people of all conditions and public and private organizations constituted as a tool to “define, promote and defend” the classic Valencian rice dishes -, paella is “the fundamental axis of the Valencian gastronomic tradition “and an” attractive global brand that is often misunderstood. ” This entity describes the ingredients of this traditional dish based on the recipes of 319 restaurants, a recipe that includes, in addition to rice: olive oil, water, saffron, garrofón, ferradura beans, chicken and rabbit meat, salt and tomato. And it can also contain paprika, snails, rosemary, garlic, tavella (a small white bean), artichokes, duck or pork chop.
The Sueca international paella competition, probably the most important event in terms of preparing the benchmark dish of Valencian gastronomy with more than fifty editions, also details its ingredients, which are: rice, chicken, rabbit, garrofón, snails, tavella, beans, olive oil, garlic, tomato, paprika, salt, saffron and, optionally, rosemary.
Last Tuesday, November 9, the Official Gazette of the Generalitat Valenciana published the declaration of Valencian paella as Asset of Intangible Cultural Interest, thus making official the decree approved by the Consell on October 29 that defined paella “the art of uniting and sharing.” However, the Valencian Government has opted not to specify the ingredients of this elaboration in its resolution since, as the Council’s spokesperson, Mónica Oltra, pointed out at the press conference in which she announced the approval of this decree, ” if we went into describing the ingredients, we would have gotten into an orchard, since within the Consell itself there have been a diversity of opinions “.
The decree recognizes that the recipe “has never been without controversy, topics and paradigms”, although it points out that “there is no doubt” about the essential ingredient: rice. This is added to the broth “by drawing a cross so that the amount is distributed in an equivalent way in the paella, in addition to that, if the number of diners allows it, the layer of this ingredient is thin, regardless of the type”, at the same time It is advisable to “not move the rice” when it is cooking, as it contains starch, “a thickener present in the cereal”. The rice should be eaten, if possible, from the same paella and with a spoon, while highlighting the importance of fire, “the suitability of orange wood for its preparation is widespread” because it gives “an aroma special and characteristic to the plate “. “In the case of using the gas stove, it is important that the fires heat the entire paella evenly”, states the decree, which insists that regardless of whether it is cooked on wood or not, “the final and most delicate moment is the doneness of the rice “.
“Epicenter” of Valencian gastronomy
The letter from the Department of Education, Culture and Sports defines paella as “the epicenter of the Valencian gastronomic tradition”, “emblem” and “core” of traditional Valencian cuisine, “an icon” of the Mediterranean diet, as well as as a “backbone” that has become a “prestigious world brand”. He acknowledges that there are “different techniques of making” this recipe and refers to the symbolism that this dish brings to a family meal, “it is the main feast in many popular festivals and celebrations” in Valencia (Las Fallas, Las Fogueres de Sant Joan or the Romería de la Magdalena among others), which represents “a feeling of identity and continuity” to safeguard and transmit to future generations.
He assures that it reflects a role of “social cohesion” and brings together people “of all ages, conditions and social classes, without prejudice to sex, race or religion” in different cultural spaces, celebrations and celebrations. As for its origin, it places it in the Albufera de València and dates it back to the incursions of Alexander the Great in the Asian continent, in the 4th century BC, since it was the Macedonian conqueror who brought rice to Europe. “However, rice was not planted in large quantities in Valencia until the arrival of the Arabs, thanks to the introduction of improvements in cultivation techniques and irrigation systems on the coasts of eastern Spain”, points out the writing published in the DOGV.
From time to time interpretations of this recipe appear that, at least, excite the most purists. Just a few months ago, the renowned chef Daviz Muñoz published on his social networks a dish in which he incorporated steamed red mullets and caviar briefly roasted with vine shoots, smoked chilli peppers and mullet broth with sherry wine and yuzo skins. . The owner of Diverxo, at least, clarified that his recipe corresponded to a “paella from Madrid.” A short time later, another interpretation was published on the networks, in this case called “Pedroche paella”, which included roast chicken broth, cuttlefish, pickled mussels with lemongrass and Jamaican grilled chicken.
British chef Jaimie Oliver published in October 2016 a photo on social media of his ‘paella’ with chicken and chorizo, a recipe that he defended months later on the BBC’s ‘The Graham Norton Show’ assuring that “with chorizo everything tastes better.” It is not the only time that chorizo has been found in the paella recipe. So much so that the Valencian rice cooker Dacsa launched a marketing campaign on April Fools’ Day 2018 in which a “special paella” chorizo appeared as an ingredient. Obviously, it was a joke that some did not detect.
American comic actor Rob Schneider also set social media on fire in 2016 after sharing an unorthodox version of the traditional Valencian dish that included, among other ingredients, lobster tails or mussels. Among those who reacted to that gastronomic ‘attack’ was the chef Alberto Chicote.
These are just a few examples, but there are many more of what Valencians consider not paella, but ‘rice with things’.