A world of tastes and smells returns during the days of the Renaissance Festival at the hands of the restaurateurs, bakers and confectioners of Tortosa, transporting us to remote times and providing us with contrasts which often seem innovative, but which have been known for centuries.
The Renaissance did not just represent a renewal in the world of art, philosophy, politics and culture; but also meant a change in what was eaten, the techniques and methods of cooking, and even the way in which meals were eaten at the table.
The incorporation of new foods started at home. Before the new American products were assimilated at tables across Europe, it was other foods, more familiar, but which up till then had only had a decorative function, which ended up in the most select kitchens; beginning with greens and vegetables, but also including imports such as melons and bitter oranges.
Because of its close relationship with the kingdoms of Italy, these innovations were assimilated in Catalonia before they were in the neighbouring Iberian kingdoms.
It was in the wealthy Catalan households where they first started dining at table sitting on chairs and using cutlery, each diner with their own dish, as opposed to the Spanish custom of sitting on the floor on cushions and eating from a common dish.
This taste for cooking is reflected in the publication of various cookbooks, which would be reference books for years, such as the Llibre del Coch by the Master Robert, and which now serve as a source for the restaurateurs of the Platigot association when it comes to preparing the Mengeu de Festa (Festival Food).
Thanks to the collaboration of Platigot, the association of restaurateurs of Tortosa, during the days of the Festival you can try these period menus.
It is worth noting the efforts made to adapt dishes which, if presented just as they were eaten in the 16th century, would be a blow to our palates and stomachs, unaccustomed as they are to the abundance of spices and the powerful comination of flavours. However, after passing the dishes through the filter of current tastes, the essence of the original dishes is be no means lost.Download PDF menus (only during the Festival)
You will not only find the flavours of the 16th century in the city's restaurants; the confectioners and bakers also join the Festival, reviving the most traditional pastries such as 'Garrofetes del Papa' (Pope's small carobs), and 'Pastissets' (Candied Squash Turnovers), and also preparing sweets, which can only be sampled during the days of the Festival, according to the tastes of five hundred years ago.
Every two years a new sweet is created, always according to the tradition and ingredients of the era.
Go ahead and try them:
The Ruta de la Saboga is the circuit formed by the taverns which are installed during the days of the Festival, characterized like those of the period. Its name refers to the shad (a fish found in the River Ebro which was highly appreciated at the time), in analogy to other more modern routes named after fish.
Evocative taverns are spread throughout the historic centre becoming part of the decoration of the old city: they are part of the great transformation of the Renaissance Festival, and the points where it is most intensely alive. Places for meeting, coexistence and fun, there is always entertainment, transit of people and many personal stories that will be associated forever with the Festival. To experience it is to follow the Ruta de la Saboga, put aside the routine and immerse yourself in the atmosphere, while enjoying and feeling the recreation in a complete way.
Some taverns have now become forever associated with the Renaissance Festival and are a must for the visitor. In these taverns the Festival goes beyond the festival; the taverns themselves become meeting points for the artists when the performances are over.
The cultural and sports associations and the local professionals from the sector are responsible for organizing the Ruta de la Saboga, where they contribute all their experience and good work.
Visit the Participa section if you require further information about the steps to follow to set up a tavern.
The traders' associations, heirs of the old fraternities which regulated much of the social life of the city, participate in the Festival with the Taulell al Carrer (Street Stall). As a demonstration of their present vitality, they go out on the streets, adorn the stalls and all the stall-holders wear period costumes. The Municipal Market becomes a central point, the stalls are adorned and the staff also dresses up. The main doors are decorated with big flags, as if they were the entrance to a temple for the consumption of premium quality products and foods.
A large circuit is formed, running from the shopping centre to the old town with the Renaissance Festival as a background, transforming the neighbourhoods and transporting us into the past. The streets are bustling with life, the curious wander the streets, other people shop, performances take place and cheer and good humour abound. Visitors and citizens rediscover ancient customs.
On the street you'll find everything you need, clothing and accessories, foods (including the sweets of the Festival, made expressly for the Renaissance Festival) and, especially, many reasons to enjoy Tortosa and its Festival.
On Friday, following the opening of the Street Stalls, traders receive a visit from the attorneys, accompanied by a retinue of noble families: a moment of solemnity. Traders receive support from the authorities and a show of their appreciation for the dynamic work they perform throughout the year, beyond the Renaissance Festival.
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