Spain’s National Library puts historic recipes on video

Talk about a cookbook collection – Spain’s National Library contains an impressive 23,000 food-related works, some of which date back to the 1400s. In an effort to raise awareness about these unique and ancient works, the library is embracing a modern techology: videos. Partnering with contemporary chefs, they have put together video recipes adapted from cookbooks that span the centuries.  

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In addition to the videos, which not only provide recipes but also delve into the history to explain how such gastronomy developed, the library has also been creating digital versions of about 200 vital gastronomy books.  “We have an enormous wealth of data, but that doesn’t mean we can easily attract a huge public,” said Elena Sánchez Nogales, who is in charge of the digital area. “The library has always been a natural habitat for researchers, but food is clearly interesting more and more people, so we just needed to find the right language to reach them.”

Madrid chef Javier Estévez said he enjoyed the challenge of reinterpreting a 19th-century recipe for caramel pig trotters. He appreciated that the older recipes were more of a general guide for the dish rather than a strict step-by-step instruction. “We’ve become much more technical, so that we treat the preparation of food as if it was some sort of scientific dissection in which everything should also be measured,” he said. “But I don’t think cooking should be like mathematics. I personally much prefer trial and error.” 

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