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“A reaping-hook fits my hand better than a governor’s sceptre; I’d rather have my fill of gazpacho’ than be subject to the misery of a meddling doctor…”[1] Despite its humble implications in Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, gazpacho has a long and complicated history that has graced the palettes of both the upper and lower echelons of societies all over the world. Drawing from the culinary traditions of Arab and Roman culture, and the introduction of New World ingredients, gazpacho became a standard Spanish dish first in the province of Andalusia.  Gazpacho is a soup, traditionally served cold, that is a blended mixture of olive oil, pepper, vinegar, onions, garlic, bread, and water. With the introduction of the tomato and cucumber from the New World and Asia respectively, the refreshing vinegar and olive oil-based soup evolved into a decidedly Spanish dish.  The presence of the Moors in Spain until 1492  influenced the cuisine of the region, including gazpacho.  The name “gazpacho” is derived from the Mozarabic, (Spanish Christians living under Moorish rule), word caspa meaning “fragments,” referencing the small pieces of bread which were ripped up and served with the soup. 

Andalusian gazpacho’s relatively recent popularity with its incorporation of New World ingredients soared when Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III, introduced the recipe to France in the nineteenth century. However, gazpacho’s complex history suggests it had a variety of other influential versions which contributed to the internationally-renowned Andalusian gazpacho. For example, gazpacho was not always necessarily served cold nor as a liquid salad. In Juan de la Mata’s Arte de reposteria, published in 1747, gazpacho was known as capon de galera in which bread crusts were soaked in water and placed in a sauce of anchovy bones, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, and olive oil, until the bread softened and various fruits and vegetables were added[2]. In addition, one of gazpacho’s original forms with bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and water which was then pounded in a mortar, had been served hot during the winter, a tradition deriving from the Arab occupation of Spain from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. Hints of Roman culinary tradition also appear in the evolution of gazpacho, given that the use of vinegar in gazpachos served cold like the popular Andalusian gazpacho, refer to the Roman tradition of adding vinegar to food for refreshment during warm weather[3]

Due to the myriad of possible combinations of ingredients and Spain’s widespread trade network, gazpacho was a dish that faced no social or class barriers. “In Andalusia, during the summer, a bowl of gazpacho is commonly ready in every house of an evening, and is partaken of by every person who comes in.”[4] Olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and bread were available to the common people from antiquity. These ingredients were staples, if not the entirety, of humble Spanish cooking from the Middle Ages through the Early Modern period. For the lower classes of Andalusian society, New World ingredients were not readily available for a time. For many, just a simple recipe of gazpacho prompted them to say, “Buenas migas hay,” or “there are good crumbs,” emphasizing the “common poverty of their fare.”[5]  Spain’s extensive trade connections with its colonies in the New World allowed the tomato to reach the lower classes of society and become a foundational ingredient in this dish.  Likewise, cucumbers, lacking in high nutritional value, did not reach the common people until the latter part of the early modern period as the ingredient was not hearty enough to warrant becoming a priority in the typical early modern kitchen.

Besides its prevalence as a common tasty dish, gazpacho was used for medicinal purposes as well. The blended salad was believed to be effective in treating stomach issues[6].  One of the earliest appearances of the recipe is, in fact, a sort of early modern prescription in a guidebook. The basic combinations of the ingredients were seen as an effective tool to “conserve health, free oneself from the staunching of blood in the belly, [...] soften the intestines, [and] prevent putrefaction.”[7]  Although medicinal properties are no longer attributed to the meal, gazpacho still has a pervasive presence in the modern world. The New York Times article, “Gazpacho: Not Hot and Not a Bother,” presented the traditional dish as a refreshing choice for hot summery weather[8]. Gazpacho has also served as an important plot point in popular television shows including The Simpsons, Psych, Red Dwarf, and Chowder. The cold blended soup seems to be an oddity in today’s culture, but the variability and simplicity of this recipe makes it a thriving survivor of the early modern period.

[1] Miguel Cervantes, “Don Quixote Chapter LIII,”, Accessed November 9, 2014,

[2] Clifford A. Wright, “Food History: Gazpacho,”, Accessed November 9,

[3] Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 333.

[4] Richard Ford, A Hand-book for Travellers in Spain: And Readers at Home: Describing the Country and Cities, the Natives and Their Manners, the Antiquities, Religion, Legends, Fine Arts, Literature, Sports, and Gastronomy: With Notices on Spanish History. Vol. 1, (London: J. Murray, 1845), 68-69.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Thomas de Salazar, Tratado Del Uso De La Quina, (Madrid: En La Imprenta De La Viuda De Ibarra, 1791), 297.

[7] Vicente de Lardizabal, “Catalog Record: Consideraciones Politico-Medicas Sobre La... | Hathi Trust Digital Library,” Catalog.Hathitrust.Org, 2014,

[8] Mark Bittman, “Gazpacho: Not Hot And Not A Bother,”, 2014,

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