In Barcelona, eating out is a huge part of the culture. The city is full of plazas and squares where friends meet for wine and tapas, and talk until the midnight hour. Most locals don’t even consider actually eating dinner until 9pm or later. Instead, Catalonians go bar-hopping in the evening, eating a different tapa at each stop.
For us early eating Brits such a late dinner time can come as quite a shock, but there’s definitely something to be said for taking your time, meeting up for a drink, snacking on tapas and unwinding at the end of the day. It took Luke and I a little while to adjust to mealtimes in Barcelona, but we came to like it.
Slow travel is an off-shoot of the slow food movement, which advocated supporting local farmers by eating locally sourced produce, preserving regional dishes, and preparing fresh food from scratch. Slow travel works off the same values. It’s about taking time to appreciate local culture and traditions, meet local people, and enjoying everyday life in a new country.
A Slow Travel Cooking Class in Barcelona
A slow travel cooking class merges all of the concepts from the slow food and slow travel movements: you use locally sourced food, learn to cook regional dishes, and meet and share food with local people.
Instead of learning to cook at a cookery school or in a restaurant kitchen, our slow travel cooking class was located in the apartment of a young local couple called Guillermo and Cristina.
Cristina grew up in Barcelona and learned to cook traditional Spanish recipes from her own family. Guillermo is Swiss-French and came to Barcelona to study, but after falling in love with the local culture and Cristina, he never left.
Cooking Vegetarian Tapas in Barcelona
Our class had a total of ten would-be chefs, who hailed from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We sat around the table, chatted and got to know each other over a glass of vermouth before the cooking actually started. Luke and I hadn’t had that much luck finding good vegetarian tapas out in the city, so we were really ready to get hands on and learn some traditional, home cooked tapas recipes.
The table was full with fresh produce that we chopped, clean, peeled and prepped around the table together. There were organic carrots, courgettes, golden mushrooms, shiny red tomatoes, and bunches of fresh coriander. All of the ingredients were sourced locally, from the organic vegetables and olive oil, right down to the flavour-infused salts.
All of the food that we cooked and wine we drank was delicious. The recipes were simple and fresh, and there was no rush. On the menu:
Vermouth – Guillermo and Cristina kicked off the evening by pouring everyone a glass of vermouth. They added that in Barcelona, vermut is the traditional local drink. While you can order a glass of sangria in numerous restaurants and bars across the city, sangria actually hails from further south.
Pan con Tomate – The most simple of the dishes involved halving fresh tomatoes and rubbing the flesh across crusty white bread, then drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with salt. It goes to show how important it is to take care with your ingredients, because though the process sounds simple the flavours were extraordinary. Everyone was surprised to see Luke and I also popping the smushed tomato skins in our mouths – that’s apparently not the way they do it – but we don’t like to waste food, and beside, they were perfect.
Fig Salad – September in Barcelona is fig season and I went totally mad for them. I had them with yoghurt for breakfast nearly every morning, and then as a snack every afternoon. I was delighted that they turned up in a salad medley with carrots and courgettes too.
Gazpacho – This refreshing, cold tomato soup is really popular in Spain because when it’s tomato season, they have more ripe tomatoes than they know what to do with. Families make gazpacho and keep it in the fridge, drinking it throughout the day. You can check out Cristina’s family recipe at the end of this post.
Pimientos – These little, sweet green peppers are simply flash fried and tossed over a hot flame until they make a crackling noise. I say simply, but actually I wasn’t so great at the tossing technique!
While the tapas cooking class wasn’t exclusively vegetarian, Guillermo and Cristina were happy to adapt and fortunately quite a few of the tapas we were cooking happened to be meat and fish free, though the meat eaters did get to sample local sausages, salted cod and baby squid.
What We Learned from the Slow Travel Cooking Class
After the meal, Guillermo explained what slow travel meant to him and Cristina:
“Slow travel is a way of doing things. It’s about having local experiences, meeting local people and getting to know the culture. You don’t need lots of time to travel slowly, you can take it easy and immerse yourself in a place even if you just have three days there.”
Guillermo and Cristina discovered their passion for slow travel while travelling around South East Asia. They reminisced that all of their best travel memories didn’t necessarily come from sightseeing, but rather from the experiences which they shared around the dinner table with locals. They wanted to bring those slow travel experiences to travellers in Barcelona and that’s why they set up their own cooking classes.
Unlike eating in a restaurant or taking a conventional cooking class, a slow travel cooking class is much more intimate experience. It’s not all about cooking, but about getting to know new people, learning about local traditions and regional food differences, and understanding where the food that you’re eating has come from.
You can find more info about Guillermo and Cristina’s slow travel cooking classes and other slow travel activities in Barcelona on Barcelona Slow Travel.
Recipe: Cristina’s Family’s Gazpacho
Ingredients: 1 cucumber, 8 mature tomatoes, half an onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 green pepper Extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, dry bread, balsamic vinegar Preparation: Remove the yellow/green part in the middle of the garlic clove. Wash and prepare all of the ingredients. Allow the bread to soak for a few minutes in the vinegar. Peel the tomatoes and the cucumber. Mix all the ingredients together, add 1 cup of water, a pinch of salt and pepper and 20cl of olive oil then blend. Season according to taste. Refrigerate and serve when cool.