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Ferran Agulló and Ignasi Domènech

19th Century AC - 20th Century AC
Ferran Agulló and Ignasi Domènech are two key people in the genesis of modern Catalan gastronomy. Agulló, who was born in Gerona, was an author and journalist, politician of the ‘Lliga’ [League] and businessman, and wrote one cookery book with a clear political intention. Domènech, who was born in Manresa, was a chef and he compiled recipes and culinary techniques. Both of them were children of the nineteenth century, however their influence has had a grand transcendence on later generations.

Ferran Agulló Vidal was the son of a confectioner and was born under the arches of Vi square in Gerona on the 11th of September, 1863. This writer, journalist, businessman and politician is remembered mainly, because in an article published on the 12th of September, 1908 in ‘La Veu de Catalunya’ he wrote, described and baptised the coastal stretch which runs from Blanes to Portbou with the name ‘Costa Brava’. Towards 1930, in the middle of the period when the normalization of the institutions and the region’s culture was taking place, ‘Llibreria Puig i Alfonso’ [Puig and Alfonso bookshop], in Barcelona, published his only culinary book: ‘Llibre de la Cuina Catalana’ [Book of Catalan Cuisine]. The book was addressed at housewives and had the objective of ‘restoring honour and simplicity to our cuisine’. It established a sketch of traditional Catalan cuisine, which nowadays still prevails in the collective imagination like the prayer that commences with ‘Our father’. Agulló was the person who defined that lightly frying, ‘samfaina’ [fried vegetable sauce], ‘picada’ [sauce made in a mortar] and ‘allioli’ were the differential traits of Catalan cuisine. In fact it is clear that his definition is nearer to the cuisine of the Empordà or Gerona region: his old family style of cooking.

The four pillars of classic Catalan cuisine are still reproduced today in many books and articles of gastronomy published in the region, from Perpignan to Valencia and from Fraga to Maó. It is even a constant, a launching pad of discussions and debates.

The ‘Llibre de cuina catalana’ [Book of Catalan cuisine] contains all the virtue of its title. Ignasi Domènech Puigcerós had earlier published, in 1924, ‘La Teca. La veritable cuina casolana de Catalunya’ [The Grub. Catalonia’s true home cooking], which was one of the most popular recipe books of the region, with eighteen editions, the last of which dates from 2008 and corresponds to the second edition of Cossetània Editions. The success of ‘The Grub’ can be explained by its vigour and the length of the book and, because without renouncing popular cuisine, it delves into bourgeoisie cuisine, with international touches, that is, in the cuisine of the future middle class. Ignasi Domènech was born in Castellbell i Vilar, on the 8th of September, 1874 and he compiled recipes, many more than Agulló did, however he did not have the pretension to theorise; he limited himself to the cuisine, the table, the presentations and tricks. At the beginning of ‘The Grub’ he offers a very special piece on the Catalan ‘picada’.

Domènech wrote thirty odd books and became a pioneer in many different fields: ‘El arte del coctelero europeo’ [The art of the European cocktail maker] (1911), ‘La cocina vegetariana moderna’ [Modern vegetarian cuisine] (1923), ‘Un festín en la edad media’ [A feast in the Middle Ages] (1913), ‘La cocina vasca’ [Basque cookery] (1935), ‘La cocina de recursos. Deseo mi comida’ [Resourceful cooking. I desire my food] (1941), ‘Los helados’ [The ice-creams] (1916), ‘160 platos de arroz’ [160 rice dishes] (1930) or the exceptional ‘La guía del gastrónomo. Vademécum de cocina internacional’ [A gourmet’s guide. Short treaty about international cuisine] (1919). This last book, which was first edited in 1919, predates ‘Ma cuisine’ (1934), by Auguste Escoffier, which is considered to be the bible of classic international cuisine. At the end of the nineteenth century, Domènech worked exclusively under the orders of the best chef of the beginning of the twentieth century at the Savoy Hotel, in London. ‘La guía del gastrónomo’ [The gourmet’s guide] is a book related to the canonical ‘El Práctico’ [The Practise], which Ramon Rabassó published in 1927 in Argentina, and which was revised by the Argentinean Fernando Aneiros and has inspired so many chefs of the Spanish State, even Ferran Adrià, who studied it from beginning to end. From ‘The gourmet’s guide’ there have been printed various editions, the last of them dating back to 1987.

Agulló died in Santa Coloma de Farners on the 2nd of July 1933; Domènech passed away on the 11th of November, 1956 in Barcelona.

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