“Bread, tomato, olive oil, salt….for a Catalan, great eating starts and ends there…”
Pa amb tomàquet is a Catalan dish. A simple dish, it consists of bread garnished with tomatoes and seasoning.
This simplicity results in the quality of ingredients being undoubtedly the key to the dishes success.
These specific ingredients are;
- Day old pan de crista
- Vine tomatoes/hanging tomatoes)
- Sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
History & Catalan Identity
The regional popularity of this dish and how it highlights products of the region have resulted in it developing deep ties to Catalan Identity, for some an every meal affair and for others, nostalgia.
Interestingly, specific actions involved in its preparation speak volumes within Catalan cuisine culture. For example, Andrew in his book, Catalan Cusine states that moistening only one side of bread indicates to Catalans that you grew up in a large family. This interesting perception can potentially be reminiscent of its history; it essentially developed as an useful/effective alternative to nourish oneself with easily available and common ingredients in the households of the Catalan region and prevented excessive wastage of stale foods. Maybe this moistening of one side was to leave enough of the ingredients to share among the remaining family members?
Through these perspectives it is possible to get a glimpse of how “this gesture of rubbing tomato on a piece of bread is a sign of Catalan identity.”
While occasionally disputed, the common view is that it is relatively new. Nèstor Luján a historian specializing in Catalan cooking, states its first written reference is in 1884. Additionally he contends that this recipe was created in the rural area during abundant tomato harvests with people using the tomatoes to soften the hard and dry bed, achieving as mentioned before a successful use of overly available ingredients and prevention of wasting stale food.
While nonetheless proclaiming an incredibly strong connection to Catalan culinary identity, Pa amb tomàquets ‘newness’ is interesting notably when compared to how Catalan cuisine focused and prided itself on its dishes having a very long tradition in culinary historical writings, the oldest being Francesc Eixemenis’s medieval Com usar be de beure e menjar (1384).
Pa amb tomàquet can’t really be found in Melbourne Restaurants. Maybe due to its’ simplicity not being very marketable.
Regardless, so simple to make! Next time you have some bread I challenge you to make this!