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paella-msg – 10/29/17


Comments on the possible history of the Spanish rice and seafood dish called paella.


NOTE: See also the files: fd-Spain-msg, rice-msg, seafood-msg, Basques-bib, Basques-msg, saffron-msg, saffron-art, Spain-msg, utensils-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 09:31:25 -0400

From: "Robin Carroll-Mann" <harper at idt.net>

Subject: Re: SC - saffron/paella


And it came to pass on 6 Aug 00,, that Mark S. Harris wrote:

> Any idea/documentation whether this paella is period?


I don't know.  The word does not appear in the 1726 edition of the Royal Spanish Academy's dictionary.  Certainly the modern recipes contain New World ingredients like tomatoes.  De Nola has a recipe for an oven-baked rice-and-meat casserole*, so it is conceivable that a rice dish similar to paella was being cooked in period.  But I have not seen any mention of one.


Lady Brighid ni ChiarainSettmour Swamp, East (NJ)



Date: Mon, 07 Aug 2000 22:39:16 +0200

From: Thomas Gloning <gloning at Mailer.Uni-Marburg.DE>

Subject: SC - "paella" originally means 'pan'


<< OK, to specifics. Some evidence suggests the word "paella" is derived

from Indo-European roots meaning, simply, "rice", but which have come to

refer as well to a cooking process common from India and southern Russia

through the Middle East and across North Africa -- (...) >>


I think the name of the dish is derived from the Catalan/ Valencian word

"paella" 'pan'.


French "paelle" ('pan, cooking vessel') is used in the Enseignements, in

the Menagier and the Viandier. More important: Catalan "paella" is used

in the Libre de Sent Sovi (also in the variant form "pella") and in the

Catalan version of De Nola in the sense 'pan'. In one of the Spanish De

Nola parallel recipes, I looked up, the Spanish word used instead of

Catalan "paella" is "sarten" 'pan'. A Catalan-German vocabulary printed

in 1502 has an entry "Pella Pfann" (Paella 'pan') in the chapter about

kitchen stuff.


Thus it seems to me that the name of the Spanish dish paella is derived

from the Catalan/ Valencian expression _paella_, _pella_, used to refer

to the pan in which the dish is made.



(The next step would be to look up Corominas, the Diccionari Catal‡,

Valenci‡, Balear, and others, but I don't have them here.)



Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 01:22:57 +0200

From: Thomas Gloning <gloning at Mailer.Uni-Marburg.DE>

Subject: Re: SC - "paella" originally means 'pan'


Master Adamantius wrote:

<< ... but then where does that leave words like pilau and its variants,

which could have made it to Spain across North Africa from Persia? >>


Is there some textual evidence for the use of the word "pilau" and its

variants on its way to Spain?


<< and then it wouldn't explain why every dish called paella is always

based on rice (at least now, and as far as I know) >>


The culinary tradition of Valencia explains this fact. They had a

particular dish with rice and other stuff prepared in a pan. I would not

be surprised if the earliest quotations mentioning this particular

preparations would have something similar to _Valencian pan_.


<< Adamantius (confused now, my confusion not abated by my elation at

seeing the O.E.D. and Larousse discredited >>


Thanks for explaining, what you meant by "Some evidence suggests...".


However, the OED-entry "paella" is very much in spirit with the



"paella (...). [Cat. paella, f. OFr. paele (mod. poÍle), f. L. patella

pan, dish.] A Spanish dish of rice with chicken, seafood, vegetables,

etc., cooked and served in a large shallow pan. Also fig. [follow



As to Larousse, my "Grand dictionnaire" does not have an entry for

"paella". Perhaps you are refering to the Larousse Gastronomique. I

never saw this book up to now. What evidence do they quote?


The "Petit Robert" traces the French word to a Spanish word meaning

'pan', too.


Anyway: all of my (and your) references are of little value, unless they

give us some evidence of the use of the word "paella" referring to a

certain culinary dish (the _content_ of the pan), rather to a pan, in

some text.


I will keep my eyes open.





Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000 09:53:01 -0700

From: "E. Rain" <raghead at liripipe.com>

Subject: SC - "paella" originally means 'pan'


According to 'The Spanish Heritage' by Alicia Rios & Lourdes March,  Paellas

are named for the pan, (from the Roman Patella as Thomas mentioned) but the

dish is possibly a descendant of the rice dishes of muslim andalusia.

Originally called 'arroz a la valenciana', the name fairly quickly changed

to 'Paella valenciana'.


A quick look through Scullys translation of the neapolitan recipe collection

reveals no paella like dishes either.





Date: Wed, 07 Sep 2005 16:50:10 +0200

From: agora at algonet.se

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: Micheal <dmreid at hfx.eastlink.ca>,     Cooks within the SCA

        <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>,

        sca-cooks-bounces+agora=algonet.se at ansteorra.org


My arabic friends tell me Paella is either Basque or Spanish, it's arabic! The word "paella" comes from "Baquiyah, which means leftovers! But in some parts of the Arab world the word is "paella". By my catalan friends the word come from "patella", a frying pan in their dialect. But according to my sources the origin of the dish is Valencia, They were made under a popular festival, the Fallas. And they use huge plates to  cook in the street and invite everyone to share. In Valencia, Catalonien, some of the paella is made with noodles and not with rice and it's called "fideoada".


Surely the basques make excellent fish dishes but they are done in the whole Mediterranean area. The french Buillabuisse, a thick and reddish fish soup, it's one.





On 7 Sep 2005 at 11:22, Micheal wrote:

Anyway off to the point of the intent of my message today, Basque food.

Anyone know for sure whether Paella is Basque or Spanish? I know its

development has fallen to the Spanish cusine.


I have made several and they are realy great crowd feeders. But I am trying

to find actual documentable period recipees for them. I also realize

they may have flown under the umbrella as they were primarily a

peasant food for farm hands.


  Cealian Of Moray




Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 10:17:23 -0500

From: "otsisto" <otsisto at socket.net>

Subject: RE: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Traditional Basque cooking by Jose' Maria Busca Isusi.

P.32 In the Basque Country, and principally on our farms, we find ourselves

midway between the two methods(which is on page 31), which is not a virtue

in this instance. These lines are offered as a piece of advice to the reader

unfamiliar with the rice paellas served in our country homes which consist

of gummy mixtures of grains of rice and more or less flavorful pieces of

meat and fowl.


Earlier in the book he gives the impression that the paella is a Spanish

dish (from Valencia) that is transformed to Basque taste. It is a casserole

of sorts.


This book has a tiny bit of history of Spanish Basque foods with itty bitty

amounts of references and conclusion to the references.



Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 10:43:26 -0700 (PDT)

From: Huette von Ahrens <ahrenshav at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


According to the Oxford Companion to Food, Paella actually refers to the pan it is made in and not the food, although through the ages, it has come to mean the food now.


According to the OCF, it is a mixture of Roman tools [the Patella] and Arabic cookery.  There are references to it in 13th and 14th century Toledo, but no recipes.  It is apparently originally from Islamic Andalucia.  And it was intended to be a group dish eaten directly out of the pan.  There apparently is mention of such dishes in the "Libro de Sent Sovi".


The article in the OCF was written by Lourdes March, who is an authority on Spanish cookery.





Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 12:57:45 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Paella is more likely Catlan than Basque as the word comes into Spanish from

Old French by way of Catalonian.  As for the modern recipe, no earlier than

the 8th Century, in my estimation.





Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 14:13:03 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


If you go back far enough, paella derives from the Greek "patane" meaning

platter.  The Latin "patella" is a diminutive of "patina" and commonly

refers to a kneecap shaped frying pan similar to a modern paella pan.  The

Arabic use of paella is probably from contact with the Europeans.


The Romans ate similar mixed seafood dishs, such as Embractum Baianum, so

paella is very possibly a fusion of Arabic rice and Roman cooking.





Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 15:11:36 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> And not simply a cognate of pilau?

> Adamantius, shaving with Occam's Razor


Not according to the philologists.  Considering that pilau is the Persian

"pilaw" as derived from the Turkish "pilav," and the time frame of the

Turkish expansion, it is possible that pilaf might be a derivation of paella

from Andalusia or Byzantium.  Given the simplicity of the dish, I'm inclined

to think it is a coincidence of parallel development with unrelated but

similar names.





Date: Wed, 07 Sep 2005 16:56:02 -0400

From: Johnna Holloway <johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Proceedings from Oxford Symposium did

The Valencian paella - its Origin, Tradition and Universality 1988, 102

by March, Lourdes & Rios, Alicia


Also did March, Lourdes

Rice, a Staple Food in Spain 1989, 158





Date: Thu, 8 Sep 2005 20:10:36 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE:  Basque Food

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> Bear commented:

>> Paella is more likely Catlan than Basque as the word comes into Spanish from

>> Old French by way of Catalonian.  As for the modern recipe, no earlier than

>> the 8th Century, in my estimation.

> Based on what? What makes you think it is even prior to 1600 CE?

> Stefan


The modern recipe uses rice.  Rice arrives in Spain in the 8th or 9th

Centuries, so the dish can not be earlier then 8th Century.  I did not state

that the recipe was pre-17th Century, merely that it could not be  

prior to a certain date.


Do I think paella predates 1600?  Yes.  The dish is fairly simple to make.

There is a similar dish without rice in Apicius and the nomenclature for

similar dishes in the Middle East suggests that they were prepared there

prior to the 17th Century.  I haven't had time to check various  

cookbooks or references, but I will when I have time.





Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 15:51:29 -0800 (PST)

From: Huette von Ahrens <ahrenshav at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Tomatoes

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


--- Micheal <dmreid at hfx.eastlink.ca> wrote:

> Been doing research actually into Paella checking out recipes


There is a wonderful article on paella in the Smithsonian

magazine several years ago.  But I can't remember which year,

or find my copy.  You probably can find out in which issue by

using the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.


Do you have this book?:


March, Lourdes

   El libro de la paella y de arroces.  Madrid : Alianza, 1985.

ISBN 8420638617


Also, in the Oxford Companion to Food, they say there is a

similar recipe to paella in the Book of Sent Souvi.





Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 08:44:58 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Paella was Tomatoes( was Philip)

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


In considering paella, we can easily reach a conclusion (which may or may

not be wrong) that the dish predates tomatoes in the Mediterranean.


Now let me ask, does the dish predate rice in the Mediterranean?


Tomatoes arrived in the 16th Century and may not have been used in paella

before the 17th Century.  Rice became an available crop in the Mediterranean

Basin some time between the 8th and 10th Centuries with the Islamic

Expansion. Prior to that, rice was a very expensive product used primarily

to thicken sauces.  Therefore, paella with rice was probably not known

before the 8th Century.


The history of the dish may be obscure, but rather than run willy-nilly

around the Mediterranean trying to compare recipes, concentrate on the

Kingdoms of Valencia and Catalonia and the culinary influences that came

there. Culinarily, the region was first settled by Greeks.  The region

became a Roman province with a very strong Roman influence.  The Visigoths

probably did not add much culinarily to the region and there is little

documentation. The Moors brought the rice and their culinary style.  The

results of these culinary migrations should show up in the Medieval and

Renaissance Catlan recipes.


Where would I look?


I've done very little research of the Greek corpus.  Most of my forays have

been modern works about the original sources.


The Roman corpus is more promising.  Paella is a derivation of patella,

which suggests a strong Roman tie.  A quick look at Apicius shows there are

recipes for Patellam Tyrotaricham Ex Quocumque Salso Volueris (Patella with

Cheese and Salt Fish) and Patellam Lucretianam (Patella a la Lucretius),

which may bear some relation to paella.


The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook and the Sent Sovi will probably be

critical to any study of paella.


Were I attacking this problem, I would look at the modern variations of

paella and the techniques of preparation, then look for similarities and

differences of preparation in older dishes while considering the evolution

of ingredients.  It would be speculative, but hopefully it would be a

logical progression with evidence to support the leaps of faith.





Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 12:45:20 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Paella was Tomatoes( was Philip)

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Paella is possibly due to the confluence of culinary traditions, but I

wouldn't say that paella is a Spanish phenomenon.  The name has been

retained there.  You might wish to take a look at Sicilian tummala.




> Half expecting to see you sitting in the living room. Because I find

> myself nodding yes as I read you note.

> But here`s the twist only in Spain does Paella reach the level of  

> notice that it does. Why ? that is my project.

> Da



Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2010 19:36:25 -0300

From: Suey <lordhunt at gmail.com>

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Paella


The word comes from Ar. /pulao/, a Persian pilaf dish. Persians took it

to Spain and India. Originally pulao was browned rice cooked with nuts,

herbs and raisins. In Spain paella is rice with chicken or with seafood

or with pork. In South America they mix all three. Certainly, one can

have a vegetarian paella but I have never heard of putting mushrooms

alone or accompanied with other foods. This is new to me. . .





Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2011 09:24:51 -0500

From: Sharon Palmer <ranvaig at columbus.rr.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Paella


<<< The word comes from Ar. /pulao/, a Persian pilaf dish. Persians took it

to Spain and India. Originally pulao was browned rice cooked with nuts,

herbs and raisins. >>>


<< One of the comments has been that the name

"paella" came from the name of the pan it is

cooked in. Any comments? >>


OED says comes from "patella", the name of a pan.


Paella: < Spanish paella (1874 or earlier) <

Catalan paella pan (1254) < Old French paelle

(see pail n.1).("

Pail:: < Anglo-Norman paele, paelle, paiele,

paile, paiel, pale pan, bucket and Old French,

Middle French paele, paelle, paielle, payelle

frying pan (c1150), warming pan, brazier,

cauldron (c1170), salt pan (mid 13th cent. in the

source translated in quot. 1481 at sense 2),

liquid measure (c1275; Middle French poile,

French po?le) < classical Latin patella small pan

or dish, plate, in post-classical Latin also salt

pan (8th cent.): see patella n. Compare

post-classical Latin paella (from late 12th cent.

in British sources; also as paila, payla).


Paella and pulao (or pilaf) are both rice, but

are different kinds of rice and are cooked quite





<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org