To mark the book's publication, College Communications asked Song to tell us about the book, her love of Catalan cooking, and more.
How did you become interested in this topic?
Part of my research has to do with regional identities in Spain, especially in Catalonia. Being interested in the cuisine particularities of these areas was only a matter of time. Soon I was using food as reference to illustrate or to think about those differences in my courses, the way they are perceived, narrated, or historicized, and eventually became a more clear line of research in my recent work.
What surprised you most in doing research for this book?
Some of the chapters my co-author and I thought would be easy to put together ended up being surprisingly challenging. This book belongs to a series called Big City Food Biographies. Each book in the series has a chapter dedicated to the city's most emblematic and historical eating spaces, and we had a hard time coming up with a list. There is an explanation for it and we provide it in the chapter, but we had never actually thought about it when we started working on the book. Another surprising thing to find out was how many things people ate many centuries ago continue to be present in current day diets, and also some of the stories related to the building of the food markets in the city of Barcelona.
What is your favorite Catalan dish?
Perhaps too many to list, but more than a dish, I like the peculiarities that some of the dishes present: the mixing of ingredients, the finishing sauces, the stories around them. When I introduce Catalan food to my friends, they love one of the simplest thing Catalans like to eat: bread with tomato. Sounds simple and it is easy to make, but sometimes hard to put it together outside of the region.
Favorite Catalan restaurant?
This question leads me to refer to one of my answers above. It changes continually. And that's part of the charm of the city, which is always renovating itself. Having said that, recently I had very good meals at El Racó de l'Agüir and Bodega 1900. One of my favorite places to eat, which will be closing soon, was Gaig. We also tell its story and why this closing is not surprising in the book.
Are there any U.S. restaurants with good Catalan food?
At some point there was one in Philadelphia, actually, but no longer worth a visit. Most places serve Spanish food in general, so hard to pinpoint one that focuses only on Catalan food. The recently opened Little Spain in NYC is worth a visit to learn about the varieties of food in Spain, and to try some of their dishes. They import good quality products from Spain. There is a restaurant chain called Barcelona—we have one in Philadelphia—it carries some products that come specifically from Catalonia, but does the more generic approach to Spanish food, tapas in general and some rice dishes. I think Oloroso in Philadelphia is also an interesting place to try, focused on tapas and Spanish food in general. I think most places offer an adaptation or interpretation of Spanish food, and sometimes that can be fun too if done well.
Do you like to cook? Do you have a signature dish?
I do like to cook and I wish I had more time to do it. I don't know if I have a signature dish—I like trying new things. Lately I have been obsessed with rabbit and making breaded rabbit ribs, fried like lollipops. They are amazing.
H. Rosi Song specializes in the literature, intellectual history, and culture of contemporary Spain. In addition to her latest book, she is the author of Lost in Transition: Constructing Memory in Contemporary Spain (Liverpool UP, 2016), and the co-editor of Traces of Contamination: Unearthing the Francoist Legacy in Contemporary Spanish Discourse (Bucknell UP, 2004) and of Towards a Cultural Archive of la Movida (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2013). Her articles have appeared in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, MLN, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, Romance Notes, Hispamérica, Revista Iberoamericana, Hispania, among others. She teaches courses on modern and contemporary Spanish narrative and culture, detective fiction, and film.
At Bryn Mawr College, students are challenged to go beyond traditional language instruction and gain a greater understanding of the richness and diversity of Hispanic culture and its profound global impact. Learn more about the Department of Spanish.