Gachas – The Manchego Porridge

There is a recipe in the Spanish region of La Mancha which is actually a variation from usual porridge. Its name is “Gachas”, “Gachas Manchegas” or Manchego Porridge. It is an ancestral dish, prepared by rural people for centuries, and its memories get lost in time. It is typical here in La Mancha, in Central South Spain, and its main component is the Grass Pea flour. Typical ingredients of a Manchego Porridge are Grass Pea flour, water, paprika, salt, garlic pieces, and some sort of local bacon.

Grass Peas, a plant known as Lathyrus sativus, is endemic in La Mancha. Although eaten for centuries in La Mancha as part of their typical recipe, its use as food for human consumption was forbidden in 1967. This was changed in 2018 by the regional government upon studies which prove occasional consumption is not damaging, only the systematic one. Why dangerous? The grass peas contain some amino acids known as the toxin ODAP.  ODAP ingestion results in motor neuron death. The result is paralysis and muscle atrophy of the lower limbs. This only happens when grass peas are consumed daily, in large amounts, during continuous periods of time. Hence, Machego porridge can be perfectly consumed occasionally, and was served, for example, as one of the dishes of my father’s wedding.

The consistencies of Gachas can vary, ranging from a liquid soup to a pie-like thick cake with a golden crust. The way of preparing them changes from area to area and from family to family. It is considered an unrefined rural dish, the food of shepherds, farmers and itinerant labourers. Preparing Gachas imply stirring the ingredients in the pan, steadily, once and again and again and again, until the recipe turns into a uniform paste, thick but not hard. Families eat them with wooden spoons directly from the pan or with bread.

We in Ciudad Real like it very much!! / Paloma Cavanillas/

The original article is published in the school digital newspaper CALATRAVATIMES.

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