The taste of conquest

Cordoba is best known for the Mezquita – the once Grand Mosque that, after the fall of the Islamic kingdom in 1236, came under the possession of the Catholic kings who could not bring themselves to level the beautiful Moorish building. So instead, they built a gothic cathedral inside of it. The Mezquita represents Andalucia’s complicated multi-religious history, with Jews, Christians and Muslims sometimes living side by side peacefully, but more often than not, violently vying for power.

Cordoba’s most famous dish, Salmorjero, also reflects the region’s complex history. This is a cold soup, often compared to gazpacho, made of tomatoes, garlic, bread, olive oil, and vinegar. It’s usually garnished with diced Spanish serrano ham and hard boiled eggs, and eaten as a light meal throughout the hot summer.

Some of the ingredients themselves go back to the Neolithic Age. Under the conquering Romans, soups with bread and vinegar as the main ingredients began to evolve. Known as puls, these first versions of Salmorejo were consumed by legionaires and the lower classes. The Arab influence is seen in the use of garlic. This evolved into the Al-Andalus sauce called almorí, a feast of acidic and salty flavors.

But it was one ruthless conquerer named Christopher Columbus that had the biggest influence on Salmorejo. The once white soup was forever transformed into its current pinkish color because of the humble tomato from the New World.

Like the Mezquita, Salmorejo is exquisite. But like the Mezquita, Salmorejo exists in its form today because of conquest and pillage, and the inability of one civilization to leave another alone.

This is the taste of war and conquest. It is, I admit, muy deliciosa.

Check out this recipe by Spanish Sabores.