Catalan Food Fight

"Diversity: the art of thinking independently together."Malcom Forbes

Catalonia is the crown jewel in the Kingdom of Spain. The region’s capital, Barcelona, is the driving force behind Spain’s entire economy. Catalonia also enjoys one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. Situated between the pine-forested Pyrenees Mountains and the majestic Mediterranean Sea, it is full of incredible culinary riches. Catalans eat very well. In the countryside, you find meat and seafood paellas cooked over live fires, grilled pork sausages such as botifarra, and colorful escalivada, community feasts of various vegetables cooked on the smoldering embers of local grapevines. Catalonia is also the birthplace of groundbreaking restaurants like Ferran Adria’s elBulli and Joan Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca. In recent years, these temples of gastronomy have thrust Spanish cuisine onto the world stage as a culinary superpower.

No wonder Spain wants to prevent Catalan independence. Who in their right mind would let this food lover’s paradise leave the country!? Of course, the region’s continued political conflict is a little more complex than that. But at the heart of the conflict is the fact that many Catalans see their region—and themselves—as distinct from the rest of Spain. According to Daniel Olivella, a Catalan chef with restaurants in San Francisco, California, and Austin, Texas, and author of Catalan Food,  “Catalans have our own language, traditions, and foodways.” In fact, Spain’s oldest cookbook, Sent Sovi, was actually written in the Catalan language in the 14th century by the top chefs of the day, who were Catalan. Many Catalans feel that Spain has exploited the Catalan corner of the world for long enough. They want independence once and for all. Independence from what? An oppressive government! In an attempt to unify the country as a whole, the Spanish government has been outlawing the Catalan language and culture on and off for centuries while simultaneously benefitting from the region’s riches. Spain has a long history of oppressing—and even executing—the Catalan people to maintain power over them. It’s true that in the past several decades, the government has allowed Catalonia some measure of administrative autonomy, but according to many Catalans, exploitation continues to this day. And they’ve had enough. Catalans are fighting, once again, for independence from Spain.

You can read all the sordid details of the political conflict elsewhere. Here, we prefer to focus on the positive, one of Catalonia’s greatest gifts to the world: its incredible food! For instance, this region is home to a unique seasonal vegetable, the calcot, a type of green onion. Every spring, Catalans anticipate their native fresh calcots. According to chef Olivella, “Catalans look forward to calcots every year the same way people in eastern North America get excited about wild ramps.” In Catalonia, the local food is celebrated by building fires with vine cuttings, charring the calcots over the fire, then dipping them in rich, peppery romesco sauce. The festival is known as a calcotada and includes many other foods such as fire-roasted spring lamb. Get a taste of this Catalan tradition by grilling spring onions or scallions with our recipe here.


Catalonia is also famous for paella. Like their Valencian neighbors to the south, Catalans take great pride in cooking big pans of rice over live fires with various mixtures of local shellfish, chicken, rabbit, and game meats. The bottom layer of crispy rice, called the soccarat, is one of the most delicious parts of the dish. Learn more about the soccarat with our recipe and tips for Paella.

When you make these dishes, wash them down with some chilled vermouth, a popular Catalan drink, or with a tall flute of cava, Catalonia’s budget-friendly sparkling wine. Better yet, try one of the region’s many excellent red wines, such as La Scala Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva from Jean Leon. Either way, eat well and raise a glass to Catalonia’s esteemed food heritage!

Catalan flag

Dave Joachim Editor David Joachim has authored, edited, or collaborated on more than 45 cookbooks including four on barbecue and grilling, making him a perfect match for a website dedicated to the “Science of Barbecue and Grilling.” His Food Science column has appeared in "Fine Cooking" magazine since 2011. 

What people say about us

"The world’s leading outdoor cooking resource." Larry Olmsted,

"An amazing compendium of barbecue knowledge." Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin

"I was crowned World Brisket Champion at the Jack Daniels World Championships using your Big Bad Beef Rub. Your site has played a pivotal role in my development." John Lattuca, WeekendWarriorBBQ, Montreal, Canada

"This meal was as memorable as my first sex, only better." Marie Overholt, San Francisco, CA

"The BBQ community is so extremely fortunate to have someone as passionate and articulate as you." Frank Ostini, Chef Winemaker, Hitching Post II Restaurant & Winery, Buellton, CA

"I adapted your brisket rub recipe this summer and my customers love it (8,000 pounds served in 6 months)! My brisket even won 'best beef' in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair." Chef Larry Vito, BBQ Smokehouse, Sebastapol, CA

"Meathead is the best writer covering this part of the culinary world." John Markus, Producer, BBQ Pitmasters TV show

"The Rosetta Stone of BBQ." Bill Lamb

"I got laid last night because of your pastrami" Name withheld for obvious reasons

"Knowledgeable, smart, hilarious, and self-effacing." Laurel Stone

"I have worked as a professional cook in high end French restaurants for several years, so when I hit the internet looking for some BBQ info, I was really pleased to find an in depth and expansive site that had all the tips I was looking for." Aaron Ettlin, Portland, OR

"A Famous Dave's commercial came on claiming the best ribs in the world, and my honey shook his head and said, 'nope, it's right here.' Many, many thanks!" Red Taylor, San Francisco, CA

"We had a fantastic season winning two Grand Championships and five Reserve Grand Championships. I always appreciate referring to your site. Thanks." Steve, Grills Gone Wild, IA

"I have always loved cooking ribs but with our new gas grill they were never as good as charcoal. Well that all changed last night when I made the greatest ribs I have ever tasted. My wife wanted to know if I bought them somewhere and then claimed I cooked them myself." Allen Nicley, Mont Alto, PA

"The Memphis Dust and the pulled pork are excellent! I had to dang near run people out of my house!" Aswad Johnson

"I was about to buy a new smoker. After reading your article about setting up a horizontal smoker, I decided to try rehabilitating something the previous owner of my house left in the backyard. Total investment: $100. I figure I saved at least $500!" Coleman Shelton, Calvert City, KY

" is the most information packed barbecue site known to man." Pitmaster and BBQ Columnist George Hensler

" is the world's go-to place for a barbecue treasure house of reliable information." Ardie "Remus Powers" Davis, author of numerous barbecue books

"This is my new go-to method for prime rib." Candy Weaver, President, Kansas City Barbeque Society

"We've won five Grand Championships and two Reserve Championships in the past three months. Learned much about BBQ from you and wanted to give you credit." Harry Soo,

"The Alton Brown of Que." Joe Mizrahi, Smokin' Joe's, NYC

"I have always loved to travel and eat. Life became boring when I had to give up my worldly adventures. Thanks to you I now love to cook. I am now having adventures at home in my kitchen and my back yard. I am no longer bored, and my large family is grateful too. Thank you so much." Dugan Hoeflinger, Tucson, AZ

"I am in the process of opening a cafe and thought your simple sweet sour slaw is an amazing winner." James Murray, Toronto

"I had two ribs and my boyfriend ate the other 3 1/2 pounds. He couldn't stop to talk. He had to bring a box of tissues to the table because these ribs are so good they make him weep. He tells me that my ribs have deepened his love for me. Well, fine, but I know that just means he wants more ribs." Nancy J. Mostad, Minnesota


Related articles



Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. On Amazon it works on everything from grills to diapers, they never tell us what you bought, and it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! And remember, we only recommend products we love. If you like, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazon

...some HTML for the first variant...



Get Smoke Signals, our free e-letter. No spam. Guaranteed

Enter your email:

If you love barbecue and grilling, get a FREE 30-day membership in our Pitmaster Club. We can up your game.

  • FREE 30 day trial membership.
  • Sneak previews of Meathead’s new book.
  • We block ads from members.
  • Real community. No politics. No flame wars.
  • Monthly newsletter.
  • Video seminars with famous pitmasters.
  • Weekly podcasts with Greg Rempe.
  • Weekly BBQ cartoons by Jerry King.
  • Comprehensive Temperature Guide Magnet ($10 retail).
  • Monthly giveaways of Gold Medal grills and smokers worth up to $2000.
  • Discounts on products we love.
  • Support for!

Lookit what our members are cooking:

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.


Click to ask questions and make comments