Catalonia’s Messiest Culinary Tradition : Calçotada

Posted on 12. Mar, 2012 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, Press Trips, Spain

All I knew about Calçotada is that it was a Catalan tradition, and that it was messy. Very messy. And indeed, it was! But that’s the whole fun of it – if you don’t want to get your hands and face dirty, there’s no point in doing it. You have to let your inhibitions go and just enjoy the moment without worrying about what you look like - there ain’t nothing lady-like about colçatada!

Preparing the calçots

Calçotada is actually a pretty simple “recipe”. The only ingredient is calçot, Catalan onions that vaguely resemble leeks, and that are grown only for the sole purpose of Calçotada. Line a dozen of them on a wire and grill them until the outside layer is burnt, and flip them. And that’s about it! That’s when the fun/tricky part comes in. Preparing calçots is a piece of cake – eating them, however, is quite an event.

You have to hold the calçots by the head and firmly pull on the bottom part, trying to peel off the burnt layer. Once you have managed to do so without actually destroying the calçot, dip it in the traditional romesco sauce, and enjoy! For something that’s basically a burnt onion, it’s actually very tasty. The only downside is the bad breath; but I guess it cancels out when everybody at the table has it, right?

It is pretty messy!

Eating a calçot definitely sounds easier than it really is. There is inevitably going to be ashes and sauce everywhere on the table, under your nails and probably all over your face, too. But it’s so much fun that I didn’t even think about any of that on the moment – I only realized how messy it was when I had to wash my hands later on!

Calçotada, apart from being a truly unique culinary experience, is also an excuse to have a get-together with friends and family on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Richard, my host for the trip, invited some of his friends and clients to enjoy calçotada at the villa, along with his own family, and the other bloggers – there were over 30 people in the courtyard, from kids to dogs to grandparents, from many different backgrounds. French-Canadians, Catalans, Spaniards, Americans, Australians, people were from all around the globe. It was so much fun to get to talk with everyone, drink massive amounts of local wines and simply enjoy the beautiful day.

The group (© Travel Thirst)

It may not have been glamorous, it may not have been elegant, but it was amazing.

I would have a hard time picking a favorite moment for that day – the food, the wine, the amazing weather, the people… I think Calçotada is about all these things, making it my all-time favorite Catalan tradition.

Have you experienced Calçotada, or another Catalan tradition? What’s your favorite foreign tradition?



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9 Responses to “Catalonia’s Messiest Culinary Tradition : Calçotada”

  1. Abby

    13. Mar, 2012

    I’ve never even heard of that!! So fun!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      13. Mar, 2012

      It is! I was a bit apprehensive because I am not a fan of messy food, but it was amazing!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Laurence

    13. Mar, 2012

    Messy food is my favourite kind of food :) Probably why I love ribs so much ;)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      13. Mar, 2012

      Well then you would definitely love colçatada - there’s ash everywhere, and sauce, and calçots too!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Kurt

    14. Mar, 2012

    Have also never heard of this treat. Sounds simple and delicious. A great combination.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Vincent

    15. Mar, 2012

    I’ve never heard about this food but it seems to be very tasty! It’s worth trying it isn’t it?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Barbara

    17. Mar, 2012

    A huge group of people, good food and wine — is there a better way to spend a few hours?
    What a wonderful tradition.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Katherina

    18. Mar, 2012

    I’ve never done it but it sounds like so much fun!!

    Reply to this comment


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