Paella is now officially Cultural Heritage of Spain

by Lorraine Williamson

The traditional Valencian dish paella now enjoys the status of Bien de Interés Cultural (BIC): Cultural Heritage of Spain. This status applies not only to the dish itself but not least also to its creation and correct preparation. 

In the Official Gazette of the Region of Valencia, which officially announced the granting of the status last Tuesday, Paella is described as the “art of being together and sharing”. The world-famous dish has been described as the epicenter of traditional Valencian gastronomy. Paella, the preparation and the cultural relevance of this dish are among the most prestigious global brands. 

Meal for the farmers on the land 

According to the official report, the origin of Paella lies in the Albufera Natural Park in Valencia. Here the dish would be prepared to provide the farmers and market gardeners in the area with a good meal. At the end of the 19th century, the dish made a jump to the eateries and beach pavilions at the beaches of Malvarrosa, el Grao de Castellón and Albufereta in Alicante. Paella took on an important social connecting function and the dish became the heart of traditional regional gastronomy. “The special preparation method makes Paella an authentic social phenomenon, in which the landscape and ecosystem of the Valencia region are also represented. This is because all the ingredients come from here,” the official gazette states. 

Paella has been crossing the border since the 1960s 

From the 20th century, Paella also penetrated other major cities in Spain. And thanks to the arrival of tourists in the 1960s, the dish also became an international hit. Although the dish has several variants, a number of generalities can be mentioned, according to the state newspaper. For example, the rice is always added to the stock and it is stirred in the shape of a cross. This is to distribute the rice evenly over the stock. Stirring during cooking is not recommended because the starch in the rice then enters the moisture, a paste is formed and no nice loose rice grains are left. Once ready, the paella is traditionally eaten with a wooden spoon. 

UNESCO World Heritage List 

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Valencia hopes that after this official national recognition of Paella, the dish will also be included internationally on the Unesco World Heritage List. Now that the status of BIC has been received, the ministry can go through the necessary procedures and can nominate Paella as a candidate for the World Heritage List. On this, the Italian pizza Napolitana and the Mediterranean diet have already earned their place. 

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