Those of us who live “in the provinces” (that is, far from Madrid or Barcelona) sometimes have the impression that everything important happens in those two large cities. It is not only that they are the most populated cities and consequently have more social dynamismRather, the relevance and space given by the media to everything related to both metropolises are so overwhelming that sometimes it seems that nothing interesting happens outside of them. We could think that this was always the case, or that the current magnetic force in Madrid and Barcelona was 100 years ago even more intense than it is now. In reality it is the other way around: the small provincial capitals then had a greater weight both in the political and cultural life of the country, and it was not uncommon for certain avant-gardes, revolutions or modern trends to triumph hundreds of kilometers from the supposed nerve centers. from Spain.
One of the most important countercultural movements within the world of food was the rise of vegetarianism. It arrived here at the beginning of the 20th century with the creation of the Spanish Vegetarian Society in 1903, and although its first events were organized in Madrid, it did not take long for similar initiatives to emerge in other parts of our geography. Then vegetarianism used to be associated with naturism, theosophy and other theories of thought as novel as they are shocking to the general public. One of its first supporters, around 1895, was Dr. Benito Minagorre y Cubero, medical director of the Baños de Alhama de Granada and a great popularizer of the so-called “vegetarianism” in Andalusian newspapers such as ‘El Accitano’ (Guadix). In 1900, the province of Granada already had enough followers of vegetarianism for the press to talk about its need to establish itself as a club, and a few years later the vegetable regime already had a prominent presence in Bilbao, La Coruña or Alicante.
Spain’s first vegetarian cookbook may have been published in Barcelona in 1909, but one of the most interesting and complete (in addition to the first signed by a woman) was published in Badajoz. It was written by Doña Concepción Pérez García with the title of ‘Spanish vegetarian cuisine’ and it came out at the beginning of 1922 from the press of the ex-mayor Francisco Uceda Gil. “For sale at the author’s house, Menacho street number 11, and in bookstores”, announced the newspaper ‘Correo de la Mañana’ in April 1922. Very little is known about Concepción other than that he had possessions in the town of Hornachos and that he signed as “P. de Corvo »due to the surname of her husband, the eminent physician Vicente Isaac Corvo Ridruejo.
Dr. Corvo was a gynecologist and follower of the most modern medical trends of his time, such as electrotherapy or naturism. Member of the Royal Academy of Medicine and Surgery of Barcelona and of the Franco-Ibero-American Medical Union, she was always consulted in her hometown, Badajoz, despite its growing national fame. Possibly his wife learned about vegetarianism thanks to his links with leading figures of European naturism, but Concepción was able to give her own personal touch to that new diet. He adapted it to traditional Spanish cuisine and the needs of a middle-class household, writing simple formulas that did not differ too much from what could be eaten in any other house: soups, stews, stews, rice or macaroni that simply did not contain any meat. no fish.
Although very few copies of the first edition are preserved, the book was successful enough that in 1923 the Naturist Center of Mexico named her an honorary member “by virtue of her merits and self-denial for the naturist cause.” Flattered, Concepción Pérez included the certificate of this distinction in the corrected and enlarged second edition of his cookbook, published in Barcelona in 1929. Far from the coldness of other vegetarian cookbooks written by doctors or professional chefs, the one from Concepción is close, homely and maternal, with advice offered in the first person by someone who knew how to feed a whole family on vegetables. For example, a button in the form of pickled potatoes.
‘Spanish vegetarian cuisine’, by Concepción P. de Corvo. Badajoz, 1922.
«The potato is taken, peeled and finely chopped. A lot of oil is poured into a frying pan and the potatoes are fried in it. When they are half-fried and almost soft, they are transferred to a saucepan, the same oil is left on them and some cumin and raw garlic are crushed; Add a little water to bring them to a boil and take the stew and a little before serving them, add a few drops of lemon juice and serve them, if the saucepan is beautiful and presentable, in the same one ».