The Official Gazette of the Generalitat Valenciana publishes this Tuesday the decree that declares Valencian paella as Asset of Intangible Cultural Interest, in which this emblematic dish is described as “the art of joining and sharing”.
The decree was approved last Friday 29 in the plenary session of the Consell after requesting this statement from the Valencia City Council. “The paella is an identity symbol of the Valencian territory”, said the vice president, Mónica Oltra, at the press conference. “Today paella not only constitutes a dish, but the fact of its preparation makes it a social phenomenon,” he added.
For her part, the Vice Mayor of Valencia, Sandra Gómez, has indicated that This initiative seeks to “spread internationally the importance of paella in Valencian gastronomy, a heritage that we must take care of and protect”. “Paella is one of our most identifying elements, a way of understanding Valencian character and culture.”
In addition to the declaration as an Asset of Cultural Interest, the decree establishes a series of protection and safeguarding measures for the property, that will be specified in carrying out identification, description, study and documentation of the property, incorporating available witnesses with material support that guarantee its protection and preservation or ensuring its normal development as well as its transmission to future generations.
Origins of the dish
The origins of this dish date back to 330 BC, when Alexander the Great took the rice to Europe. However, it was not until the arrival of the Muslims that it began to be cultivated in large quantities. “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”, reads the decree.
Already in the sixteenth century, the use, whitening and cleaning of rice husks began to be recorded, as indicated by the playwright Francisco de Paula Martí in a small treatise annexed to the study ‘General Agriculture of Gabriel Alonso de Herrera’ (1513).
More than 500 years ago the playwright wrote: “Valencians have the vanity, in my opinion well founded, that no one has come to know how to flavor it better than they, or in more different ways.” “It is not surprising that the Valencians have reached a degree of perfection in this part, unknown in the other provinces, because it is the almost exclusive food with which they live, particularly people who do not have great faculties, and have studied with this reason the means to make him more pleasant to the palate, “he added.
“Everywhere they have wanted to imitate them, and for this they usually leave it half cooked, mistakenly calling it Valencian rice, persuaded that those natives eat it almost raw, having observed that cooked grains remain whole and separated in Valencian stews, “wrote de Paula in 1513.
Later, in the eighteenth century, the first quote regarding paella or ‘Valencian rice’ appears in a recipe manuscript, in which they were explained the techniques for its preparation and it was emphasized that the rice has to be dry.
“Grand Royale Paella”
At the beginning of the 20th century, this typical dish spread to large international cities. In fact, in Belgium there was a dish called “Rice a la Valencienne”, including in its capital, Brussels, “Paella Grand Royale”. Furthermore, in 1896, the preparation of a paella was filmed for the first time by the French cinematographer Eugène Lix in his documentary ‘Execution of a paella’.
At the beginning of the 20th century, this typical dish spread to large international cities such as New York, where a variant called “arroz con pollo” is served at the Delmonico restaurant, which was very frequented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; as well as in Parisian restaurants or in London’s Soho.
In some works by scholars of the twentieth century culinary and gastronomic traditions of Alicante, as is the case of José Guardiola Ortiz, author of the monograph Alicantina Gastronomy, published for the first time in 1936; He talks about rice with rabbit and describes the importance of “this paella” in the feast of San Jaime and the custom of sharing it on the beach of San Juan. Francisco Seijo Alonso in ‘La cocina alicantina. Alicante cuisine and food ‘, makes mention of a “daily paella” in the Vall d’Alcalà, the “paella a la granaella” from Xàbia, the “paella with duck” from Catral and the “Valencian paella” of Beniarrés.
In this way, lPaella reached its zenith with the tourist boom of the sixties in Spain with the arrival of foreign tourists to spend their holidays on the Spanish coasts.