The Paella Moment 1


started this article as a tribute to that delicious dish, paella, and I’ve find is better divide it in two. Today we present it as an aperitif, and next week we applaud it and eat it. What is the “socarrat”? And the “garrafó”? Can we call paella a rice with Nutella? This mystery solved here and in the next week of your favorite breakfast: Living For Breakfast.

Are you ready? This croissant takes off…

That mystery, la paella


hen you’ve seen  something during all your life, you think that’s normal, but that’s no guarantee of anything. Recently, my aunt Carmen invited us to a paella that was part of a paella contest during the festivities at her neighborhood, in a small city of Valencia. The Valencians, those peculiar people who don’t need any excuse to make a good “sarao” (RAE: Nightly gathering of distinguished people to have fun with dance or music). I couldn’t resist myself to share it with you. So much color, so much ceremony, so much human warmth. Paella is for some people the Sunday liturgy, being a polemically delicious dish, bordering on religion. We are going to explain it.


could write in this article about the ingredients and the process of cooking a paella, but this Sunday does not have enough hours and I am not an expert, in my life I never made a paella. Neither,  I don’t want to come for me hordes of Spanish culinary trolls on the Internet – who probably haven’t made a paella in their lives either, like me – and tell me if they put the chicken on sooner or later (after we’ll talk about the wonderful gastronomic bullying that surrounds this dish – not El Bulli, the bullying – let’s give it a touch of  humour XD). Today I’m going to talk about what no one explains about paella, “The paella moment”.

It is well known that food is a moment of community, of collective pleasure, of finding yourself in front of a dish that says more about you than you do about it. In all cultures and countries there are moments like this, in Valencia, this is ours. Paella, the most traditional dish in Valencia and the most topical in Spain, is a dish that, curiously, is not public in nature, even if it takes place in the street or in open spaces surrounded by other paellas. The most celebrated, famous and delicious paellas are private and are that of – are you ready? – : your mother, your grandmother, your father, your uncle… In Valencia paellas are eaten on Sundays, at home or in the countryside, in groups of family and/or friends. It is a kind of Sunday club that is very easy to enter, since it is very easy to be invited if you know local people, even if the paella is made by his cousin aunt.

Cooking paella usually has leader. Normally, it is the women who cook during the week who continue to cook on Sundays. But sometimes it happens that it is men who cook it. In some cases, paella for men would be the equivalent of barbecue in other places and, outside this dish (paella, barbecue, barbecue + paella) do not cook anything else. In some extreme cases, it is women who buy the ingredients, prepare them (wash, peel, cut) and leave them next to the utensils (which they also put). After their husbands cook, they clean the paellón (Skillet in which the paella is made) and the whole table, kitchen, etc … Fame, in these cases, is taken by men, of course.

The paella begins to be cooked at 12 but is not usually tasted until 15 or 16 hours


he most important thing is the fire, and here begins the socialization. As in ancient cultures, reunion begins around fire. The paellón is usually large (there are sizes according to the number of diners) and is unquestionably round, with two handles on the sides. This giant frying pan is made of black metal with a very characteristic white spots and for storage it is usually hung on the wall creating a silhouette worthy of Joan Miró. The fire can be of two types, gas or charcoal. If it is made with gas, the conversations will revolve around its power. If it is made with charcoal, the conversations about how to make embers will be bordering on the infinite. Both with gas and embers, the paella process is usually very dirty (smoke, ashes, oil splashes), it needs space, ventilation and provision for oil stains. While the leader cooks, people who don’t even make an egg (don’t even make an egg : I don’t know if this is a real expression but i love it. In this case, don’t make an egg during this paella cooking) will come and go while they give their opinion and tell what to do. The most daring will take your spoon and remove your delicate recipe. The salt point will pass from disgust to drama. A spoon with broth will pass from mouth to mouth that will be releasing opinions to the air. A secret: The point of salt does not exist. When the meat in the paella is already sautéed, some pieces are usually taken out and distributed among the diners as an aperitif.


Diners will have started with an aperitif while… Do you want to know how it ends? If in my family the dishes are served flying? See you next Sunday 🙂 I love you croissant!

Breathe, it’s Sunday.


Carmen Ortega Caro

text, pictures & illustration

Vincent Moustache



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