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Spanish picos

Spanish picos

What was developed by accident from bread mistakenly left too long in the oven and becoming hard as nails, has become a national accompaniment to any dish

ANDREW J. LINN

Friday, 2 June 2023, 11:40

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The first edible item to arrive at the restaurant table is normally bread, with or without butter, except in Italian places, where we enjoy slapping butter on those grissini breadsticks.

Up-market establishments provide olive oil and classier places serve a selection of oils on individual platters. (Waiters have got used to seeing foreigners piling butter on their bread at dinner time, something that is reserved for breakfast.) Along with the bread come the picos, or regaña, and if they don't we should request them ('Nos trae unos picos por favor'). What was developed by accident from bread mistakenly left too long in the oven and becoming hard as nails, has become a national accompaniment to any dish.

There are regional differences, from the crostas of Baleares to the Valencian rosquilletas; they can be organic, flavoured with herbs, or made with olive oil.

British naval ships of Nelson's day carried enormous quantities of ship's biscuits. These were about as far away from what we know as a biscuit as is the American 'biscuit' today, being a simple mix of flour and water, and a punishment regime was to put sailors on a diet of these for weeks at a time. In reality they were more like today's picos.

Picos have entered the field of delicacies and are exported internationally. A small Cádiz bakery sends one kilo packs to many destinations. There is no particular mystery about making them, so it seems rather odd that something which can be made in Brasilia, Denver or Vladivostok has to be sourced from Spain.

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