Dear Spain: Please stop ruining international cuisine

February 9, 2017

Thinking of making a paella this weekend?

Considering adding some chorizo to that paella?

“Burn, heretic!”

At least, that’s what a lot of Spanish people would say.

I personally, your humble host and favorite Spain blogger, am a huge fan of chorizo. Just check out the name of this blog.

Is there anything you can’t improve by adding some spicy red sausage?

No. Quite clearly, there is not.

But the Spanish disagree. See, several months ago, Spain was united as never before by the outrage caused by Jamie Oliver’s recipe for chicken and chorizo paella.

It was practically a Gibraltar-scale diplomatic crisis between Spain and the UK for a week or two there.

(And in these times of uncertainty, with all the Catalan Independence struggles, we’ve gotta take what we can get as far as Spanish unity goes.)


Paella with chorizo? How dare you!

Like so many gut reactions based on supposed cultural norms, the Spanish rejection of chorizo in paella is (dare I say it?) complete bullshit.

El Comidista, a newspaper columnist in El País with an almost cult-like following, called BS the week after the scandal broke: paella with chorizo has a long history. Your Spanish grandma probably ate it – and was happy to.

The fact is, like much of Spanish cuisine, paella started out as basic food for poor people. Get a big flat dish, throw in some rice, add whatever else you can find, and cook it slowly over a fire.

With all the poverty and hunger in even recent Spanish history, do you think anybody would turn their noses up at a paella with chorizo?

Damn right they wouldn’t.

I’ll go further: your Spanish grandmother would have been happy to make paella out of the neighbor’s dog or cat, if she could catch it.

The post-Civil-War situation was that brutal.

Ask anyone.

Recently, there’s been a new scandal – also complete bullshit – about Buzzfeed’s recipe for Spanish omelette with chorizo.

While I agree that Buzzfeed sucks, let’s be real…

Anyone with 4 seconds to spend on Google can find dozens of Spanish chefs and food bloggers who are happy to share their personal recipes for tortilla española con chorizo.

But if a foreigner does it…

Burn, heretic!

paella with chorizo, tortilla with chorizo
Literally 2 hours after finishing the first draft of this article, I was able to eat tortilla with chorizo at an authentic Asturian restaurant in the center of Madrid. Got a problem with that? Take it up with the chef at La Camocha on calle Fuencarral.

If a foreigner suggests a non-standard recipe, they end up facing a whole online inquisition. Who are you to add one typical Spanish ingredient to another Spanish classic?

But there’s a twist to this story, and you probably won’t see this mentioned anywhere else.

Start forming your lynch mob, ‘casue…

I want Spain to stop ruining international food

Attention Spaniards…

The next time you’re outraged about some Englishman adding chorizo to whatever, think about the trauma you’re causing people from other countries when you ruin popular international foods.

Let me just give you a few examples:

My flatmate, years ago, introduced me to a Spanish-style oven pizza: buy a 3 euro frozen pizza at Mercadona, spread some canned sweet corn on top, then crack an egg over the whole deal. Put it in the oven and enjoy.

It’s disgusting.

Same with what used to pass as a burrito here in Madrid. I remember one I had in Lavapies, which had nothing in common with an actual burrito except the tortilla.

It was filled with shredded carrot, cucumber and cream cheese.

Quite a disappointment, for a guy who grew up on TexMex. (Now we have Tierra Burrito Bar, which is pretty good, and some better Mexican restaurants. But still.)

And another thing… Listen, Spain: the name hamburger might suggest “ham” to the uninitiated, but it’s made of beef.

Hamburgers = beef.

Not pork.

100% beef. This point admits no negotiation.

casqueria puente de vallecas
Pig’s blood? Tripe? Ear? Hoof? All legitimate Spanish foods… just don’t get them near a paella.

Every time I try to support a local bar and get a burger for some extra protein, something dies inside me… when it turns out that the burger is mostly pork, and has the consistency of a cardboard box filled with sawdust.

Sorry, Spain. But I gotta tell it like it is.

You suck at international cuisine: so stop whining about foreigners ruining your cherished traditional recipes.

Of course, it’s not just Spain ruining international cuisine

I remember a certain ex-girlfriend who absolutely lost her shit (as only Mediterranean women can do) when I used both onion and garlic in a sauté.

A real sauté, she informed me (veins bulging out on her neck, righteous indignation bubbling in her gut) includes either onion or garlic.

Never both.

Later on, when we visited her hometown in Italy, her mom made a sauté with onion and garlic one evening. I pointed it out, and my ex (wonderful woman that she is) said…

“What? I never said you couldn’t do that! We literally never had that conversation. You and your imagination…”

Is there a reason for all this nonsense?

Mabye. I think it’s just that Mediterraneans feel like their food culture is superior to anything we have in the English-speaking world.

So they also feel justified in lecturing us barbarians from the US about how to do things.

And by the way…

What’s up with these awful beer and wine cocktails?

Spanish wine is great.

Here on the blog, I’ve got a whole article and video about Spanish wine vocabulary, if you want to know much more.

Here’s the thing, though: kalimotxo – red wine with coca cola – really isn’t great. If you must drink it, make sure it’s bad wine. I’ll personally set up an inquisition and have you flayed alive if you mix a bottle of real Rioja with coke.

Or you could try una clara con limón: beer mixed with lemon Fanta.

Spike your blood sugar at the same time you’re getting tipsy. Have fun with diabetes, dawg.

Either way, it sucks.

Anyway, Madrid feels like it’s the capital of everything.

And as foreigners here, we have to occasionally swallow our pride and deal with the Spanish ruining our food – and at the same time feeling so superior about their own food culture they have to mansplain it to us.

Is there a solution to all this?

Probably not.

It’s just the inevitable result of the mixing of cultures – it’s probably happening all over the world.

What’s a Chinese hamburger like?

Or a burrito in Australia?

These are the questions that keep me up at night. All night, actually, with the severe stomach pain that follows eating a cucumber and shredded carrot burrito.

Indignantly yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. I used to date a girl from Valencia. She insisted that paella isn’t really paella unless it has rabbit. I confirmed this when we later went to a restaurant, and the rice had rabbit legs, rabbit ribs – and even rabbit heart, lungs and kidneys. And she was from Valencia: birthplace of Spanish rice. So, take that, ye defenders of regional paella recipes! Enjoy your rabbit kidneys. Or admit that you suck at food (and probably life).

P.P.S. Whatever you think about this article, please leave me a comment. Do you put chorizo in your paella, or cream cheese in your burrito? Don’t worry. This is a safe space. I won’t judge you. As long as you don’t make me eat shitty food, that is. See also: Spanish cuisine, a love story.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Hola Daniel, I’m a madrileña living in England, enjoying your witty posts. I loooove paella, both with and without chorizo. I don’t take offence, maybe because I’m not from Valencia, and I like Jamie Oliver a lot, he’s pukka mate!
    I had an English boyfriend for 8 years and I couldn’t get him to like salchichón or chorizo. Dad couldn’t conceive he wouldn’t eat jamón serrano, but hey, respect above all. After all, I didn’t need to worry about him eating my embutido, hehe

    1. Hola Gemma, I am an Albojense (Almeria) living in America since 1956 and I still looooooove chorizo, jamon, salchichon, morcilla, but very especially chorizo. My ex wife whom I still love after 8 years of being divorced, is British and she went back to England. I visit her for one month every year and the last visit was from 30th November 2017 to 6 January 2018, she lives near Carlisle and she does her shopping in Lidl, I could not believe my eyes when I saw Chorizo being sold there and I bought ten packages because they did not have any more and I brought it back with me. It was the best chorizo I have tasted in years and it was, in my opinion, very cheap. I can buy it here from a shop called La Tienda via the internet, but it is about ten times more expensive, and can not compare to the taste because I like fresh chorizo which the one from Lidl was and the one from La Tienda is very dry, which is hard for my 75 year old mouth to chew

  2. Having lived for quite a long time in Madrid now I hope you can agree that Mediterranean food and culture is generally better, and at the same time there are very good dishes and produce in the anglosphere and lots of rubbish in current daily eating habits in Spain. The rest is a non-issue really. All that outrage you talk about is 99% trolls for the banter and media eager to get in for a few clicks. The UK yellow press likes to do that a lot, one of the most harmless things they do.

  3. I suppose now days if a thousand people complaint about something on twitter it means that the whole country agrees with that, whether or not it’s a stupid idea. I guess in the same terms you can say that any moron can have a blog and reach a few people, sounds that familiar?
    I hope some day people will realize that what is trending on an app doesn’t apply to everybody and like some people like cooking with chorizo some others don’t. Just some piece of advice to the writer, trolls are out there, sometimes they look like many but in reality they are just a few, don’t listen to them, ask around because things normally are not quite like trolls think they are.

  4. Mate, where has this post been all my life? I grew up in Spain and couldn’t agree with you more! 🙂 Keep up the good work!! Got tired of explaining all the wonderful food out in the world. I just got told, what would you know, you’re a guiri! Or you only think that cos you’re a guiri! 🙂 “Everyone” knows the Spanish wine, beer, ham, cheese, food etc is the best in the world! 🙂

  5. I add whatever I can find in the kitchen to my rice dishes and call them paella. Paella is just a fancy name for “rice with things”. And yes, I’m Spanish.

    I don’t actually add chorizo to my Spanish omelette when cooking it, but I definitely include a few slices of chorizo in my “bocata de tortilla de patatas”, so there you go.

    We still cook better than you gringos, overall 😉

    Good post, mate. I was expecting more critical comments, tbh 🙂

    1. I was expecting to be killed by some Valencian nationalist today… but it didn’t happen. Guess I disarmed them with my limited sense of humor. Glad you liked the article!

  6. Hi funny. Mexican food across Europe is nasty, cheap and mean tex-mex with canned salsa and despair. Also probably stale corn and soggy flour tortillas. Also, the Spanish-wide “pan chino” is the most ridiculous destruction of a culture’s food in the world. The Telepizza chain across Iberia offers sad, salty cardboard messes from the dignified Italian perfect simplicity. Burritos in Australia btw. are very good, mission style with the correct ingredients and huge proportions. And no one outside of the US/Canada can do a proper egg breakfast except for the Australians. (The disgusting “full English” with tinned beans is a horror matched only by the Irish even nastier version.)

      1. I think you should moderate your manners, there is no need to critisize Spanish people in that way. Cause even in a crisis and being poor Spanish people cooked much better than the US.

  7. Daniel, love everything you write which why you are a good writer even though you did not have training to write. But you obviously are a born writer and naturally needed no training, the only thing you needed was the necessity to make a living in a country not your own, and the inborn ability surfaced. My sister Pilar writes you once in a while with tales about what we used to eat in Albanchez before we came to live in America, such as caracoles, paella et al. About the hamburgers, the first time I went back to visit Spain was in 1975 (we had left it in December of 1956) and when I saw a place selling hamburgers, there was no such thing when I lived there, I almost died. I realized that as you say, the word hamburger has ham in it and they thought they were made with “ham”. I do love pork in all its varieties but I’m telling you, that first and last bite of Spanish hamburger nearly killed me. I myself love any kind of rice except con bacalao

    1. Thanks for commenting Antonio! It’s true, all my “training” comes from reading and writing… Anyway, I don’t think Cervantes had to go to university to learn to write. Have a great day!

  8. Man, I am Spanish and I feel nothing about foreign people “ruining” Spanish dishes. I probably wouldn´t like some of them but, goddamn, let people do whatever they want! hahahaha. Paella con chorizo? why not? two things you like mixed together, that´s alright! OK, not always: chocolate + chorizo: I don´t think this would taste very well.
    Anyway, I add ketchup to Spanish omelette! and no one has put a gun to my temple.

    1. Hahaha thanks! Tortilla with ketchup is a new one, but I remember I used to eat it with “tomate frito” when I was new in Spain. Thanks for commenting 😛

  9. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, best part is when a North American talk about burritos (Mexican), hamburgers (German) or pizza (Italian).

    Certainly you do it because you own the original recipe!!! XD XD XD XD XD XD XD

    I’m gonna be laughing until tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Best joke ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  10. Italians are much worse when it comes to changing up ingredients. Although now I must say that I can’t have a carbonara with cooking cream, but I wouldn’t be as adamant about keeping it out either. What about pasta with chicken? Rest assured that every Italian will look at you like you’re nuts when if you mention it. I guess they must hate Thai and Chinese food.

    1. Oh yeah, I used to date an Italian girl and she couldn’t stand even basic combinations like onions + garlic. Plus, she’s completely lose it if I ever mentioned that actually noodles were invented in Asia. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed this hilarious read, and couldn’t agree with you more. Food constantly changes and evolves–which isn’t to say that the classics no longer have a place at the table! But there’s also room for innovation and personal taste. As long as it’s yummy, what’s the problem?

  12. Great article! I always add chorizo because, you are right Daniel, it does make it better!

    I would probably get hung in any town square or burned at the stake in Spain – I am American and I love that I have the freedom to make paella any way I like. Thank you Spain for creating paella but I like to try variations with Spanish “influence.” Heretic like Jamie Oliver? I will happily accept the label!
    La Tienda, the American purveyor of Spanish ingredients, had a recipe for “Paella Mixta” that started my paella journey. It mixes chicken, shrimp, and chorizo in the same paella, which may be sacrilege but it sure tastes good! Substitute lobster for the shrimp… outstanding!

  13. Hey mate. I am living in London and love the openness and curiosity of the British people. They will embrace (and try) anything and everything. This as opposed to the traditional chauvinistic Spanish attitude “why eat out it’s not going to be better than what you make at home – I’m not eating this Indian crap it’s not going to be better than what mum is making”.

    There are actual legal protections for these things – designation of origin. There is a legal struggle about Manchego cheese – Mexicans produce a cheap cow cheese they call “Manchego”. You can see how that may hurt business for the expensive, higher quality Spanish product. It might hurt the product’s name too, once associated with cheap low quality stuff.

    Leaving business aside, I think these types of complaints come from fear that a cherised food’s name and reputation will be devalued. People abroad might not have eaten a good paella in their lives. I’ve seen paellas made from frozen Chinese fried rice bags in Greenwich. The guy literally pouring the whole thing out of the bag onto the pan. Boom, “paella”. We’re afraid people will base their opinions on that. They will think, ‘why are Spaniards so proud of paella? I tried it in Greenwich, it was ok I guess’. I actually had this happen to me with ham. You can find packs of “Spanish serrano ham” everywhere in London. It’s low quality. I’ve had people telling me ‘ah yes I know ham, I’ve tried it, it was ok’. And then watch the change in their expression when they try again once I buy them the real thing and teach them how to eat it (Brits tend to chew ham like it’s a steak instead of savouring it).

    Not sure why this fear is endemic to Spaniards and Italians. Portuguese don’t care. Greeks don’t care. Moroccans don’t care. And Japanese definitely don’t care even though sushi has the same problem high quality ham has. I guess we’re more insecure? Inferiority complex? Who knows.

  14. Daniel,
    OMG your article made me laugh so hard, I spit on the computer screen. I’m making paella next week for a Sunday party here in Boston. My wife says I HAVE to include chorizo and I too love chorizo. The problem is I’m planning on making a seafood paella with a serious broth of fresh fish and shells, etc. It’s an 18″ pan so it’ll feed like 6 people made over charcoal on my Weber. I’ve made ‘paella mixta’ 6 times before and it’s come out very well, but I want to make an all seafood version. Can I add the chorizo anyway? Will the Spanish inquire, then take me away? Please help. -Mark

      1. Just an update. This last 18″ paella was the best I’ve made so far and it was a huge hit, with everyone very impressed. A few things I’ve learned are that there is no substitute for a great homemade stock for paella. Also, without onions it was superior. In America we tend to think that the more stuff we put into it,the better a dish will be. After reading the advice from a Spanish Chef to omit the onions in the soffritto I GOT it. Onions release a lot of water, making the paella ‘wet’. Without them, my paella set-up perfectly ‘dry’,with perfectly al dente grains without the mushiness I’ve had in the past. Just a little tomato and garlic is all you need, maybe some red bell for color.

  15. Hi Daniel! I’m a spanish girl who was born and raised in Comunidad Valenciana, and I can tell you, there is paella with chorizo! The thing is that it isn’t really paella valenciana, it’s arroz con conejo, and it had red and white sausages (butifarra, botifarra or choricitos, as we call it here!). My mother always has said that there is a way of cooking rice diferent for almost every city in Comunidad Valenciana! In my city, we make arroz con costra, wich is paella with beaten egg on top, baked in the oven. Weird, isn’t it? But it’s delicious!

  16. Hey Daniel,
    I just did an 18″ paella on the grill over charcoal for a birthday celebration that included a beautiful fresh fish stock with more than a little Spanish wine, bomba rice, mussels, shrimp, chicken thighs and chorizo. This time I omitted the onion in the sofrito with just a bit of garlic and a few Roma tomatoes-grated along with the pimenton and saffron as a base. I have to say that omitting the onion (as some Spanish Chefs recommend) really made the paella ‘sit-up’ nicely in the pan for a perfectly al dente ‘dry’ rice with amazing flavor (we even got a nice socarrat on the bottom!). I’ll never use onion in a paella again and it did not miss it at all!

    Though the paella did not really need the chorizo it was a huge hit with the party.

  17. I like how you write. I’m from the Philippines and grew up with two grandmothers, a Dad and a Mom who always preceded all sauteed food with the classic sofrito of garlic (cooked first till almost toasted), onion (red is preferred over white because more pungent, if that is the desired outcome), then chopped tomato. I hope your ex-girlfriend doesn’t read this.

  18. Hi Daniel, you write that rare thing – a funny, informative blog about Spain, enjoyed reading bits out to my husband over dinner (minestrone with salami instead of pancetta – beyond yummy). Adapt and survive, we say!

  19. This is probably one of the stupidest article I read. Spanish cuisine has lots of traditional recipes, is wide and rich. English or North American cuisine is pretty much non existent. You take hamburger, pizza and other shitty food as your own and/or international cuisine?? Please… Stop thinking you can ruin a dish and still believe you know better than the locals of the place of origin of it. At least be humble.

  20. Omg THANK YOU for this article! I’m a Filipina married to a Spanish guy. But that’s not the reason why I agree about you calling this paella with chorizo scandal bs. I live in San Francisco now but I used to live in the Philippines, a 300 years colony of Spain. For so long our spanish paella which is cooked by spaniards in the Philippines and introduced by spaniards centuries ago is basically paella with chicken, seafood and….CHORIZO. The chorizo is the favorite of everyone. And like you said about the history of paella; it’s a poor man’s food, just mixing whatever you can find with rice. Maybe they didn’t have rabbits in the Philippines when the conquistadors arrived and they didn’t want to have to use just chicken or pork, so they probably added paella because paella is yummy and helps flavor up the rice more. Just sick of some Spanish or worse ‘wannabe Spanish foreigners’ calling it an abomination.

  21. As a paella maker myself, I have been told no chorizo by the chefs in Barcelona. Came across the attack on Jamie Oliver today. Poor guy. This post made me chuckle. How the heck can people get so worked up over food combinations? It’s mind boggling! The world has a lot more to worry about than how somebody cooks and with what. And it is a free country, isn’t it? Oh my goodness! Can’t we all just get along and accept each other? Seems not. One thing tho. I am definitely NOT adding rabbit. EVER! The poor sweet things…

  22. Just read your post today. Laughed so much. Thank you. As the US election is in a few weeks, I really needed a laugh. Trying to decide if I’m going to take the chance of pissing off some Spanish people by adding some chorizo to my paella. I’m getting ready to vote, so I’m feeling dangerous.

  23. I absolutely love your post!!! An Spaniard from the Basque Country living in Australia. We are very proud of our cooking (Basque )as you probably know but what the heck, I love chorizo, fresh, dry , in paella, in tortilla, wherever…..My valencian friend always tells me is a crime to put chorizo in the paella but…….whatever….I also love Japanese food and i was devastated last time in Spain, with one of the sushi rolls had cream cheese in it!! Really?🤔
    Have you try potato croquets with chorizo? Yummmm
    Anyway, have an absolutely awesome day, Mate!!

  24. Just call it jambalaya, Cajun cuisine. Charge more for it if you’re running a restaurant, unless you’re in Louisiana, at which case no one will order jambo off your menu anyway.

    Or call it redneck stir fry.

    Wasn’t there something I read about ‘marketing’? Yeah, whatever makes the (paying) customer happy, otherwise, eat it and be happy you’re getting chorizo.

    (Who is *not* happy with chorizo? Insanity!)

  25. Hey Daniel,

    I came across your blog because I’m “alquiler-hunting” in Madrid. Just wanted to say I’ve had a few laughs going through some of your posts, and came across some useful commentary from you – mainly about Tetuán living, as that’s one of the areas I’m looking into.

    Anyways, if you haven’t already, when you cross the border into the other bit of Iberia – the western coast part – you should try our “chouriço” – miles ahead of chorizo, miles ahead! 😉

    Thanks for the blog.

    1. Hey Luis, thanks for reading! Last time I was in Portugal I had something similar to a “cocido” that was pretty good. Lots of pork bits. Have fun in Madrid!

  26. I am Spanish-Australian. My father and his parents immigrated to Australia and I grew up eating my grandmothers mixed paella recipe. It included chorizo!
    I only heard of this “no chorizo” nonsense today!
    My family is not Valencian, but were from an agricultural area near Zamora.
    I am very sure they did not turn their noses up at chorizo in paella.

  27. Well I’m late to this but I came across it looking for paella recipes. Chorizo is always in order!

    Ketchup on a hot dog though is an executable offense.

  28. Hola Daniel!

    I’m a Valenciana and I do not mind Jamie Oliver’s comment. In my house we frequently substitute the rabbit for chicken, and throw in other veggies as well such as artichoke. It’s not like people are cooking their paellas a la leña on the daily, so they technically aren’t making it entirely traditionally either. I do personally, however, draw a hard line at the mixing of seafood and land food in paella. I get disgusted whenever I see people mixing chicken and shrimp on one dish,,, it just feels unnatural.

    I really appreciate this blog, as it makes me feel like less of a guiri, as I’m only half Spanish.

    Que tengas mucha suerte!

    1. Hey Sofia, thanks a lot! I’m pretty sure I’ve had chicken and shrimp in Chinese dishes, for example. From my long contemplation of the topic, I’d say most Spanish people’s problem is that they don’t want to hear the word “paella” used to talk about “arroz con cosas”. Thanks again for commenting 🙂

      1. Paella has to be the single most bastardized dish in the world. As for mixing surf and turf in one, we have the (classic?) 'paella mixta' which I make all the time. But I can see a person from Valencia taking issues with it, as Valencia is the birthplace of paella and represents the purest form of the dish. Still, paella has evolved or devolved depending on your view point on what it is or is not, or should or should not be. The reality is that unless you're making a true Valencian paella, you are surely going to offend someone.

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