Exploring Gazpacho: The Salad in a Glass
Recently, my good friend Eric confessed that he was badly in need of a gazpacho “fix” and asked if I had a good recipe. I found a reliable recipe for him and promised to write an entire article on the topic “during the summer.”
Honestly, where I live we are not in the midst of what I would call “gazpacho weather.” As I write, the snow is falling.
However, I recognize that some of you live in the Southern Hemisphere, or at least in an area close enough to the equator that even your winters are toasty warm. So, I’ll grab an extra sweater and start writing.
What Is Gazpacho?
Gazpacho is a chilled soup; some people call it a "liquid salad in a glass." But don't imagine a health-food concoction of green kale and wheatgrass. This is actually a beautiful, flavorful soup with wonderful aromas, colors, and textures.
The etymology of the name might give us some clue as to where the original recipe originated.
- Caspa: A Mozarab (Spanish Christians living under Muslim rule) word meaning "residue" or "fragments," an allusion to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a gazpacho soup
- Gazaz: A Hebrew word meaning to "break into pieces", again referring to the bread base
In his 1989 publication "Breviario del Gazpacho y de los Gazpachos" Jose Briz tells us that originally gazpacho was nothing but bread, water, and olive oil, all pounded in a large wooden bowl; it was poor people's food during the Middle Ages.
But there are those that turn the clock back even further. Here is a passage from the Old Testament:
At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." (Ruth 2:14).
The Link from "Here" to "There"
So it is apparent that gazpacho has its roots in the Middle East; not a food of the wealthy and elite; it was simple food, peasant food, made of locally sourced ingredients and eaten raw (not cooked).
Stale bread and vinegar were the first "gazpachos". It wasn't until tomatoes and peppers were brought from the "New World" (Western Hemisphere) that what we think of today as gazpacho was born.
According to Dyscover24x7:
"Historians believe that Christopher Columbus probably took casks of the liquid sustenance with him on his voyages from Spain, and when he brought back tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, the soup in its present state was born. The recipe slowly spread through the rest of Spain, and then throughout Europe, especially through the auspices of Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of the French Emperor Napoleon III, in the 19th century."
Recipes for gazpacho (or at least a gazpacho-type soup) started to appear in print. As far as we can tell, the first recorded recipe appeared in an 1824 colonial recipe book.
Put some soft biscuit or toasted bread in the bottom of a sallad bowl, put in a layer of sliced tomatas with the skin taken off, and one of sliced cucumbers, sprinkled with pepper, salt, and chopped onion; do this until the bowl is full, stew some tomatas quite soft, strain the juice, mix in some mustard and oil, and pour over it; make it tow hours before it is eaten.— Mary Randolph, “The Virginia Housewife” (1824)
We've Come a Long Way
From the story of Ruth and Boaz in the Old Testament to the peasant food of the Middle Ages; from Columbus' discoveries of tomatoes and peppers and the journey of those fruits to and fro across the Atlantic; from an early 19th-century cookbook to the almost countless recipes on the Internet...the story of bread, oil, and (later) tomatoes combined to make a nourishing "soup" has been one of the most storied and treasured recipes of the ages.
This, my friends, is my passion, and why I write about food.
When we share our recipes, we share not only our traditions and backgrounds—we share the memories that formed us and make us who we are. Food is how we relate to others. Eating is the common denominator of mankind, the one activity in which we share a mutual bond.
When prepared with care food can be magic—a true case of the whole exceeding the sum of its parts. Food is an art form, a fusion of tastes and textures that spans centuries of time. We may be separated by culture and continent, but food is the language that unites us all. Food is a part of who we are and what we have been; it is our heritage, it is our history.
Thank you, Eric, for giving me the inspiration to write this article.
Recipes in This Article
- Authentic Spanish Gazpacho (G)
- Avocado (G)
- Creamy Israeli (G)
- Sweet Corn (G)
- Thai Carrot and Cucumber (G)
- Watermelon (G)
Authentic Spanish Gazpacho
Abbey is a funny, punny food blogger who began her blog, TheButterHalf, "as a way to keep myself accountable in the kitchen, learning to cook delicious and approachable recipes for my family—I’ve coined my cooking style 'where gourmet meets every day.'”
Her recipe for Spanish gazpacho is authentic, easy, and oh, so good.
Lexi has a great blog, cookbook, and innovative recipes. This chilled soup has an amazing combination of flavors: sweet corn, briny shrimp, crisp cucumber, and creamy avocado.
Creamy Israeli Gazpacho
Known as the "Queen of Kosher" (CBS) and the "Jewish Rachael Ray" (New York Times), Jamie Geller is the founder and chief creative officer of the Kosher Media Network (KMN), publisher of the award-winning JOY of KOSHER with Jamie Geller magazine and JOYofKOSHER, and she shares this recipe for chickpea gazpacho with us.
Sweet Corn Gazpacho
Kristen is a former nurse turned recipe blogger and chef so she understands nutrition and the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. Her sweet corn gazpacho is full of vegetables and fiber but low in calories.
Thai Carrot and Cucumber Gazpacho
Juli of PaleoMG puts an Asian spin on gazpacho, using coconut milk, lemongrass, and ginger for sweet, herbal heat plus the cool of cucumbers.
I think nothing speaks of summer quite like watermelon. Have you ever considered using it in a soup—a chilled soup? This recipe from SouthernLiving is a perfect blend of sweet and spice.
© 2017 Linda Lum