Calçotada: The Catalan Onion Celebration

 

A new year has begun, and with it has come another season of calçots.  Even if you’re not familiar with the name, you might have noticed those giant green onions “springing up” everywhere around Catalonia.  If you think they’re your typical spring onion, guess again.

Raw Calçots

Called calçots ([kəɫˈsɔts]) in Catalan, these onions are a type of scallion, very similar to those in North America, which are much milder in flavor and less bulbous than a normal onion.  In appearance, they resemble a leek, and when cooked, they become sweet and tender. They grow in such abundance here, that the only logical solution is to throw a party, right?  Claro que si!

Catalonia is one of Spain’s most interesting regions, swimming in traditional celebrations, with perhaps one of the most unique and wonderful of all being the Calçotada—a feast of calçots and other typical Spanish Cuisine.

calçotada

The old days

In the traditional method of cooking, Calçots are strung together and roasted over a fire, turning the outer layer black, and the inside into a delicate, and tasty delight.  They are then wrapped in paper and handed out to all who join in on the fiesta “party.”

roasting calçots

Traditional Method of Roasting Calçots

Eating them, while fun, can be quite messy, and some even wear a bib to protect their clothes. Method of devouring: First, pick your calçot of choice, and gently dip it in a salvitxada sauce, similar to a romesco sauce, which are both tomato based.  Next, tilt  head back and lower dripping onion into mouth.  Last, wash it down with a delicious Spanish red wine.  Repeat as many times as desired. Typical side dishes include bread for scraping up sauce, botifarra “sausage,” and other Spanish meats.

That’s they way they do it in Catalunya

For those of you who aren’t keen on onions, you’ll find there’s much more to a calçotada than just stuffing your face with potential breath hazards.  This is an occasion to mingle with neighbors, catch up with family and laugh with friends–a past-time that is deeply rooted in the Catalan culture.  Socializing while eating is held in such high regard here that there’s even a word for it in Catalan—sobretaula, (over the table) a concept that doesn’t quite translate into the English language.

sobretaula

Sobretaula

If there’s one experience  you don’t want to miss during your travels in Catalonia, it’s a calçotada—the ultimate example of the Catalan and Mediterranean lifestyle; where food, wine, and good company are essential to one’s well-being.

 

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