Tortilla is a typical Spanish omelet made from eggs, potatoes and onions only in its most traditional form. Though, today there are many variations with different ingredients such as vegetables, fish or meat. Since Tortilla is common all around Spain it serves as a national dish along with Gazpacho and Paella – although the latter has rather regional roots and is more spread due to its popularity with tourists.
The word “tortilla” is a diminutive for “torta” and originally means small cake in general. In order to distinguish the Spanish Tortilla from egg omelets (“tortilla francesa” in Spanish), people often refer to the dish as tortilla de patatas or tortilla española. You also shouldn’t confuse it with the food of the same name from Mexico and its neighboring countries, which is a simple flatbread from corn or wheat.
Spanish people usually prepare the traditional egg and potato omelet freshly at home. For the lazier ones, there are also ready-made Tortillas available in different versions in supermarkets.
Tortilla: A dish for the military?
The origin of the traditional Spanish dish is not precisely clear. Francisco Martínez Montiño first documented it at the beginning of the 17th century as Tortilla de Cartuja. The Carthusian monks first prepared this variation of the dish with cream. The actual dish, however, is described for the first time in 1817 in an anonymous letter to the Spanish Parliament. Apart from mentioning the omelet, the statement reports about the poor living conditions of farmers in the province of Navarra.
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Legend has it that a peasant woman in Navarra invented the tortilla de patatas in the 19th century during the Carlist Wars. The farmer’s wife had to prepare a meal for the military as they were hosting General Zumalacárregui. Since she did not have any other ingredients apart from potatoes, eggs and onions, she invented the dish in this emergency situation.
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