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‘El Clasico’: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid in Food and Soccer

By Marcus Samuelsson | April 20, 2012

Photo: gomezoscar

One of the world’s most anticipated and watched soccer match, ‘El Clasico,’ is just one day away! For those who follow soccer, you’ll agree with me that what makes this game even more special is that there’s only 5 games left to play in La Liga and Real Madrid have a 4 point lead, meaning this game will probably decide who will win the league title this season.

While I’m anxiously waiting to watch the match along with millions of others, I can’t help but think about the history behind these two teams and cities in general. In addition to hosting two of the biggest names in soccer, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, these two teams represent one of the biggest rivalries in history, and not only in soccer but also in food and politics, that still exists today.

While both cities reside in Spain, the customs and cultures vary to the max in each location. Barcelona is known for its Catalan heritage that has existed in the northeast state of Spain for centuries. That region still speaks the Catalan language and is extremely proud of its food, art, music and Catalan customs. While Barcelona differentiates itself by celebrating its distinct traditions, the capital of Spain, Madrid, is known for more an amalgamation of the cultures of all of Spain’s distinct states like Catalunya, Basque Country, and Galicia. Their pride comes from the national collective of influences.

Besides soccer, food is also one of Spain’s biggest passions. Barcelona is known for its cutting edge modern food, which I’m certainly a fan of. One of my culinary idols, Ferran Adria, is based in Barcelona and I got to experience his cooking and revolutionary techniques first hand many years ago. A lot of what we know as molecular gastronomy today, like spherification (creating caviar out of different ingredients), was created by Ferran in his legendary restaurant El Bulli. Because of its proximity to the Mediterranean, Barcelona is also known for its intense seafood dishes, like Sarsuela (a seafood medley casserole) and Fideua (similar to a seafood paella, but with short, skinny noodles instead of rice).

Photo: eltpics

While you can find a huge variety of foods from other regions of Spain in Madrid, it’s known for heavy and heartier dishes, aside from the smaller tapas snacks eaten as smaller meals in the late afternoon. Some of the typical dishes found in Madrid are Cochinillo Asado (roasted suckling pig) and Callos a la Madrilea±a (tripe in a spicy tomato sauce).

Photo: jlastras

Regardless of anyone’s preference in foods from these regions, this Saturday’s soccer match between them is going to be a good one! Even with Real Madrid’s slight lead in total wins with 68 over Barcelona’s 64, it might still prove difficult for them to defeat Barca since it hasn’t been able to do so in 4 years. Yet, Barcelona’s form hasn’t been as good this season as the past couple of years, even if they’ve scored 167 goals in all competitions so far. But the quality of the passing, and the majestic play by Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, and Fabregas might still be too much for Real Madrid to handle.

Oh, and if you’re wondering who I’m rooting for, my heart belongs to Arsenal of course for soccer clubs, but for this match, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Real Madrid win since they have started to play more as a team now than ever before under Mourinho’s leadership and with Ronaldo’s impressive 53 goals so far this season, it might just happen!

If you’re wondering what to cook if you’re watching the game at home, check out Food Republic’s Menu for ‘El Clasico’ here.

Who do you want to win at Saturday’s ‘El Clasico’?

Photos: gomezoscar, eltpics, jlastras 

For more on food and culture, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

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