Calçotada, the Catalan art of eating onions
There are many great sides to Catalonia, but if we’re absolutely passionate about one of them that is definitely food.
This time of year is very special for us as Catalans. One of the greatest food festivals is taking place all around the Catalan countryside, and it’s all about a type of onion. Yes, we’re talking about Calçotada, the famous onion barbecue.
What is the Calçotada?
We give this name to the act of gathering with friends and family to eat calçots. These are a type of onion original from Catalonia that from the winter months to early spring become the protagonists of this food tradition.
Calçots are grilled over a flaming barbecue that blackens the outside layer and then wrapped in newspaper afterwards. The newspaper allows this Catalan onion to get tender inside from the steam while they rest on the side. Calçots are later served on a terracotta roof tile as a form of a plate to help them stay warm. And this is when the fun part begins.
It may seem strange for someone who isn’t used to this tradition to see adults using bibs with dignity, but believe us, bibs are absolutely necessary. Eating Calçots is a messy business.
The adventure of eating Calçots starts with peeling away the charred layer on the outside of the onion, revealing the tender part of it. This alone will leave your hands black. The next step is dipping the onion in delicious romesco sauce.
And then, you have to eat them! For this, you need to tilt your head back and gently drop the calçot into your mouth. The final step is to enjoy the wonderful flavour of this wonder of nature, and maybe sipping some good Catalan wine.
But of course, as good Mediterranean people, the Calçotada is not only about food and drink, but about spending a great time with friends and family.
Enjoying the Calçotada
But the Calçotada doesn’t end there. Eating calçots is only the beginning of a long day that continues with barbecued Catalan meats and grilled vegetables over wine and laughs.
Normally, people gather together in a masia (an old style of traditional country house) and extend this event into the late hours of the evening. It is also typical to end the night with a glass of Catalan sweet wine Moscatel.
But if you don’t have a group of Catalan friends to enjoy the Calçotada at their masia, don’t worry. As it grows in popularity, more and more places in Catalonia organise Calçotadas for visitors to take part in this unique experience. There’s definitely no excuse to miss such a fun day.