The Tortilla is a typical Spanish omelet made from eggs, potatoes and onions but can be found in many variations with different ingredients such as vegetables, fish or meat.
Since the Tortilla is common all around Spain it can be seen 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), the dish is often referred to as tortilla de patatas or tortilla española. It is also not to be confused with the tortilla from Mexico and its neighboring countries, which is a simple flatbread made from corn or wheat.
The traditional egg and potato omelet is usually prepared at home but can also be found packaged in supermarkets.
A Dish for the Military?
The origin of the tortilla is not precisely known. It is first documented at the beginning of the 17th century in the notebooks of Francisco Martínez Montiño and was initially called Tortilla de Cartuja. This variation was invented by Carthusian monks prepared with cream.
The actual tortilla de patatas, however, is described for the first time in 1817 in an anonymous letter to the Spanish Parliament, which reports about the poor living conditions of farmers in the province of Navarra.
Legend has it that the tortilla de patatas was invented in the 19th century during the Carlist Wars of a peasant woman in Navarra. When General Zumalacárregui was hosted at the farm, the farmer’s wife had to prepare a meal for the military. Since she did not have any other ingredients apart from potatoes, eggs and onions, she invented the tortilla de patatas in this emergency situation.
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