The holidays are a time we typically spend with our families and friends. It’s also a time of year when our Solex team members from Spain start reminiscing about their families and friends back in Spain. During our Solex holiday dinner we had a long conversation about our favorite holiday foods and Spanish traditions over a few glasses of wine. We had so much to talk about that we decided to share some of it with you via a la Plancha.
The Point of View from Ray’s Catalonian Stomach
We’ll start with Ray, our numbers guy, who is from Barcelona. Now, if you know much about Spain, you know that Barcelona is in a region called Catalonia where they have their own unique language, customs and foods. Here’s what Ray had to say about his favorite holiday foods and memories.
For me, the highlight of the holiday season is spending time with family and friends, and eating great food. Unlike the rest of Spain, we don’t have our big family meal on Christmas Eve. For us, the focal point is Christmas day when we eat a traditional dish called Escudella I Carn d’Olla. In Barcelona,where I am from, Paella may be more famous and pa amb tomaquet more ubiquitous but Escudella I Carn d’Olla is truly the national dish. It is a slow-cooked, one pot stew with meat and vegetables that is served year round in Catalonia, but on Christmas we pull out all the stops. Our Christmas version adds chicken (for Saint Peter), Pork (for Saint Anthony), beef (for Saint Luke), lamb (for Saint John) and a giant football shaped meatball called a Pilota. And don’t forget the Galets, giant shell-shaped pasta typical of Catalonia.
Though Escudella i carn d’olla is the star of our traditional Catalan Christmas dinner, we also serve grilled prawns, jamon Iberico and cheese like Senorio de Montelarreina which is my favorite. My grandmother’s recipe for Escudella I Carn d’Olla is a closely guarded family secreted. The three wise men would give up their Frankincense and Myrrh for the recipe. But someone’s grandmother was nice enough to share hers in this video.
For me, the celebration of the St. Stephen’s day (known also as Boxing Day) on December 26th also makes Catalonia unique. The food of the day is Canelones de San Estaban, stuffed with the filling that remains from the Christmas Escudella, turkey, or capon. Step aside Italy, Catalonia’s Canelones are coming through!
Ignacio and the Twelve Grapes
Another of our team members, Ignacio, is from Madrid. Here’s what he had to say about his favorite traditions of the season.
My family’s big dinner on December 24th is always the best, an opportunity to catch up with relatives I haven’t seen for a while over a great meal. Any Spaniard will tell you that the Jamon Iberico is the center of attention during any celebration, but at Christmastime, it gets a little competition from seafood, lamb, fish, and my all time favorite, capon.
New Years Eve, is also one of my favorite days of the year. In Spain, if you’re superstitious, your luck for the entire next year is determined at the stroke of midnight. How? When the clock starts to strike midnight, you must eat one grape for each strike of the clock. If you can manage to eat 12 grapes during this short period of time, you are guaranteed to have a good year. With or without the guarantee of a good year, our next stop is usually the local Churreria where we buy hot and crispy Churros or fried dough and dip them in gooey chocolate. Haven’t planned your New Year’s Eve menu yet? Make your own Churros and chocolate using this recipe.
Jose’s Basket of Goodies
When we started to talk about holiday memories, Jose, one of our founding team members, was reminded of his childhood when negotiating about food began for him at an early age. Here is Jose’s story.
In Spain, it is customary for companies to send their employees home with Christmas baskets (which for the lucky are more like chests) filled with traditional Spanish foods each year. These holiday baskets are stuffed with typical Spanish goodies like crunchy Marcona almonds, salty white anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea, juicy olives from Granada, sweet and chewy Turron from Alicante, and of course Iberico ham which needs no introduction. My father was no exception. Each year he would come home with what as a child seemed like a Christmas basket as big as my youngest sister.
As the oldest sibling, I took charge each year. First my three siblings and I gathered together to plot out our strategy. With excitement reflected in our bright young eyes, we reviewed what had come in last year’s basket and what our father might bring home in this year’s. The next and most important part was negotiating to get dibs on each of our favorite items from the basket. By the time our father brought the basket home, we had claimed every last item except for the Cava, his favorite. To this day, the sight of a holiday gift basket brings me back to the holidays of my childhood.
This is just a glimpse of what the holiday season means to us here at Solex. What are your favorite holiday traditions and memories?