So if you find yourself in Spain in summer and the sun is beating down on your head, the last thing you will want to eat is a hot meal or a filling stew.
But which meals can you enjoy that will cool you down? Some are obvious, some less so. Some you will like straight away. Others will take time to win you over.
Gazapcho is avoided by many people. The whole concept of soup being served cold being an anathema to north European tatsebuds. But I have known doubters convert to both Gazpacho and, my preferred option, Salmorejo.
I know of a Spanish foodie who eats very little else in the summer months other than Gazpacho. He tells me of an ancient Spanish proverb which, once translated, states: “You’ll never get an upset stomach from Gazpacho.”
And, do you know what? That is one of the more accurate Spanish proverbs i have come across. Of course the quality of Gazpacho you will be served when dining out across Spain will vary considerably. But a good Gazpacho is a taste of Spain that will linger with you for a long time.
It is a signature dish of Andalucia. In Latin the word Gazpacho equates to the word caspa which means “leftovers.” And that is very much how this classic meal began its days. Farmers in Spain developed the dish in to one that included fresh vegetables.
To this day the typical ingredients for a serving of Gazpacho include bread, garlic, salt, vinegar and top quality olive oil. Diced tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers are added. Serious cooks and chefs still use a mortar and pestle to blend the ingredients though busy restaurant kitchens will obviously employ an electric blender.
Little pieces of toasted bread called tropezones will be served alongside the Gazpacho. Further peppers, oninons and even a hard boiled egg may be served in an accompanying dish for diners to add as they see fit.
But Gazpacho is only one of a few cold soups you will be served or can make yourself.
Salmorejo is effectively a variation on the theme of Gazpacho. Salmorejo hails from Córdoba and they are very proud of this dish in the city famed for being the home of La Mezquita. I like Salmorejo Cordobés for its greater use of cooling tomatoes mixed with ham, eggs and – in some restaurants – tuna.
Another option for those willing to experiment with cold soups is Ajo Blanco (white garlic). Made using white bread, garlic, vinegar, oil and almonds, this dish also hails from Andalucia. In this case, Malaga. I like garlic so enjoying this cold soup has never been a problem for me. I find it best when the chef is a touch subtle with the garlic. You truly can have too much of a good thing.
In Malaga i have seen it served with locally produced Moscatel wine, raisins, grapes and even slices of apple.
I have a friend who has lived in Andalucia so long that she can make Gazpacho or Salmorejo with her eyes closed. But when it comes to eating i love to look at the colours on offer before sampling soup that is, a bit like revenge, a dish best served cold.