Spain's cuisine, inevitably, is inseparable from the country's varied ethnic and cultural roots. Culinary traditions date back to the Phoenicians and Greeks – the former introduced that small but heroic staple of the Iberian diet, the olive, and the Romans would later export thousands of amphorae of olive oil to Rome from Spain. The Romans in turn shared their vast knowledge of viticulture and of preserving fish, an art form currently enjoying a revival.
Some of Spain's most enduring culinary legacies, particularly the use of spices, herbs and fruits in savoury dishes, stem from eight centuries of Arab and Moorish rule. Trading with the Persians, the Arabs introduced pomegranates, rice and aubergines from India, melons from Africa and figs from Constantinople. The Moors also had a sweet tooth, a trait that most Spaniards have inherited (they're particularly partial to honey and almond laden desserts).
In the 13th and 14th centuries Spanish conquistadors returned from the New World with potatoes, beans, courgettes and peppers, all still store cupboard staples in kitchens across Spain. as used by most other countries.
The Spanish government is keen to protect its regional produce from imitation, in line with wider concerns over food provenance. The Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen came up with the DO (denominación de origen) system, covering a range of foodstuffs including rice, olive oil and cured ham. The body also devotes considerable time to classifying Spanish wine. Before anything can be labelled with the DO standard, strict criteria must be met. Each product must display characteristics specific to its region of origin and conform to an established list of ingredients.
DO foods include:
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