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Food

Canelons – a traditional Catalan dish

Written by Tytti

The Catalan canelons are a dish that, despite seeming like quite a normal lasagna-type of thing, bring a big slice of Catalonia‘s history on the side. Therefore, this traditional recipe deserves a post of its own – read on and discover why this dish is worth tasting and appreciating!

cat3Barcelona of the 1920’s was a place where the bourgeoisie – with its wealth and interest in development and culture – had transformed and affected the city in many ways. Many women had also gained in means and interest to get pleasure from material and urban experiences. These women were now going to fashionable restaurants and cafes that were owned by migrants from the north of the Italian peninsula (the Swiss Ticino).

Canelons were a fashionable dish that was considered too difficult and time-consuming for homemakers, and at the time, they were pre-ordered instead of made at home. The restaurant then made the pasta, stuffed it and coated it with bechamel.

So ladies who wanted to cook canelons, or who wanted their cooks to do that, had to take an advanced class on the subject. This type of course was offered between 1924 and 1931 in the feminist Institut i Biblioteca Popular de Cultura de la Dona. The activity was actually linked to the improving the status of women in the society since it was an effort to add to women’s competence.

Regarding the rise of factory-made pasta, in the beginning of the twentieth-century canelons were imported from a French firm, La Poule (the chicken). They were valued so highly that they apparently arrived separated by pink paper! Very different from the supermarket pasta our of modern times – Catalan canelons of the past were a precious commodity held in high regard.

cat2Ramon Flo in Barcelona figured out how to make the products cylinder-like in shape, and he sold them under the name El Pavo (the turkey) from 1914 onwards.

Since the 20’s canelons have been a popular choice for the 26th of December, and they have their solid place on the table in countless local families. They have come to replace an earlier St Stephen’s Day‘s rice dish that was made from leftovers from the Christmas soup.

Catalan canelons reached their status as a household favourite across all social classes in the 50’s or 60’s, and now you can find and enjoy this fish practically anywhere. Fancy or modest, this pasta creation firmly holds its place as a cultural favourite in Catalonia – try and find out for yourself!

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About the author

Tytti

Tytti is an online fashion store owner and freelance translator from Finland, who has lived in Barcelona on/off since 2009. She especially loves the sea, the cafeterias and the sun of Barcelona.

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