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September 10 2015

Do you know what grape pickers eat for breakfast?

A little bit of history...

This meal is also known as a "vineyard breakfast".  Its origin it lies in old Northern Catalonia and most probably with the vineyard workers of the Languedoc region.  Due to its proximity to Empordà we quickly picked up on this tradition.

 

This vineyard breakfast typically consists of: herring with grapes (either basic white or moscatell), bread (with tomato rubbed on it and olive oil) and, of course, a porró (a traditional type of wine pitcher).

 

This combination of sweet and savory reflects the belief that it helps restore the salts and sugars lost during the harvest work.  Traditionally this meal was provided by the owner of the vineyards.

 

It's interesting to pause for a moment and note that in this strong dish, the arengades (herrings), which were salted sardines in brine, were preserved well. Their name is derived from the Catalan word for herring, areng, but which is in fact just the way sardines are preserved in salt. As a point of curiosity, it's important to note that "les arengades" were known by the tongue-in-cheek name of "guàrdies civils" or "civils" because they were normally eaten in pairs (along with grapes and bread, of course), like how the Spanish national police officers typically operate. Also, their heads were reminiscent of the tricorn hat worn by those police officers.  Moreover, they were eaten mainly in the post-Civil War period as they cost very little and because of that they had little social prestige.

 

The arengades would be grilled and eaten alternatively with grapes thus allowing for a balance between the salt of the fish and the sweet of the fruit.  Normally, in the vineyard these meals would be served wrapped in newspaper and the grape pickers would eat them lounging in the middle of the vineyard.

 

 

How do you make it?

 

Ingredients for two people:

 

-4 herring

-4 slices of traditional bread

-2 rubbing tomatoes for the bread

-1 bunch of grapes

 

Preparation:

Put a drizzle of oil on the arengada and cook it on the grill, either on a grillpan or directly on the coals.  The arengades are then placed on the bread slices that have been previously been rubbed with tomato, or simply with olive oil.  Some people like to eat the arengades without cooking them. Alternate the pieces of arengada with bread slices and grapes. 

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