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Bigger than Brexit: English tortilla offends Spain

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Spanish omelette with cheese and peas

An Englishman has gone into hiding after appearing on the growing Spanish ‘Culinary hit list’ for crimes against Spanish cuisine.

“What are you DOING??” yells Pilar at her English son-in-law as he attempts to put ketchup on the tortilla she has just prepared, “English mama” adds her daughter, Maria Pilar, with a shrug of her shoulders. This scene is being played out across Spain as wave after wave of Brits arrive with the promise of English teaching work, attractive spouses and a low possibility of rain. Adopting ‘an English’ has become commonplace, although the integration process is somewhat slow, examples of the above domestic 'food shaming' are sadly going unnoticed by the authorities.

Spanish culture revolves around food, its consumption and rituals. Social interaction usually involves ‘taking some tapas’ on a terrace, passing from bar to bar to nibble and chat or the entire family crowding around a table for a weekly feast. They even have their own unique vocabulary, for example ‘sobremesa,’ which doesn’t exist in any other language, describes the five or more hours spent at the table after a meal is finished, shouting and sipping ‘Orujo de hierbas.’ Meanwhile in Britain, you eat your food, pay the bill and get the hell out of there, or incur the paralysing judgemental glares of the staff, urging you to leave psycho-kinetically.

Another predominant trait in the world of British cuisine is the ‘there are no rules’ rule.

Innovation, experimentation and a noble stride towards the unknown is what brought us the light bulb, steam engine, toothbrush, electric motor, telephone and paella sandwich. The sandwich itself, invented by Lord Sandwich, is pure culinary innovation. An avid gambler, Lord Sandwich demanded his staff bring him something he could eat between two pieces of bread, with one hand, leaving his other free to continue playing cards. The sandwich is the staple of the British lunch, which lasts 11 minutes, it can be eaten in the street, under rainfall, whilst walking briskly back to the office.

British culinary innovation has continued into the 21st Century, the British National dish was voted to be ‘curry’ in a 2011 poll, not ‘fish and chips’ as the rest of the world would expect. In fact, many curries have been invented in Britain, the Chicken Tikka Masala being a prime example, invented in Glasgow by chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, his son recounts:

On a typical dark, wet Glasgow night, a bus driver coming off shift came in and ordered a chicken curry. He sent it back to the waiter saying it's dry. At the time, Dad had an ulcer and was enjoying a plate of tomato soup. So he said why not put some tomato soup into the curry with some spices. They sent it back to the table and the bus driver absolutely loved it. He and his friends came back again and again and we put it on the menu.” (*)

Fusion food? More recently, the chef Jamie Oliver received a unified ‘Buuuu!’ from the entire country of Spain for adding chorizo to his paella recipe, he remains at the top of the ‘Culinary hit list.’

Fusion is the future

A Leeds based amateur chef and photographer, known only as JK (to protect his identity) endeavoured to improve upon that most sacred of Spanish dishes, the ‘tortilla de patata.’

There are two camps in Spain, those that have their tortilla with onion and those that do not, a divide that separates families and friends. This is the absolute limit of interference with the recipe which has been around since potatoes were invented by the British. JK had no idea of the potential political fervour he would produce when he posted an image of his Sunday afternoon culinary experiment to a popular social media platform.

The Bulldog Research team, using sophisticated research software gathered public opinion from English speaking Spaniards. Here’s what they had to say:

When confronted with these statements JK was nonplussed and unwilling to apologise “Spanish folk need to get over it” he said, adding “probably shouldn’t mention that I added paprika to the egg...and red pepper.”

Since this article, JK has received an offer to open a chain of ‘tortilla Inglés’ restaurants in Salou, in an effort to corner the emerging market of ‘Guiri Fusion Food.’ Other proposed dishes include Churros Cake, Migas Sandwich and Croqueta Pie.

(*) BBC Hairy Bikers' Best of British Series 2: 5. Food and the Empire. First shown: 6.30pm 5 April 2013

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