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Alumni Travel Reading 2018-2019: Flavors of Catalonia

Catalonia: History, Politics and Culture

Barcelona, An Introduction

Street in Barcelona with pedestrians and shops

Flavors of Catalonia


Piles of fruit and vegetables with hanging spices at market
La Boqueria by vgm8383

Travel list selected and annotated by

Joseph Holub
Librarian for Spain, Portugal, and Latin America

For more information about this and other excursions, please visit the Penn Alumni Travel Webpage.

Revolutionary Catalonia

A Barcelonian Detective

No fictional detective has covered Barcelona more intensively or chronicled modern Spain more thoroughly than Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s sophisticated gourmand Pepe Carvalho. The novels are very popular, they feature substantial amounts of food, sex, and politics, and there are plenty of them. There have been reprints and they are easy to find online, if not in your local library. Yes, the detective gets to travel in some cases, for example, to Buenos Aires. 

A few are Buenos Aires Quintet, The Pianist, and Murder in the Central Committee. All three are also available for purchase.

There is a very helpful appreciation of Vázquez Montalbán written soon after his death in 2003 here.

Barcelona in Fiction

Other notable fiction with a Barcelona setting includes:


Increasing interest in Catalan cuisine is reflected in new cookbooks, although there are some classics in English, such as Irving Davis' A Catalan Cookery Book. There was an appreciation of the book in The Telegraph.  Another is Catalan Cuisine : Europe's Last Great Culinary Secret by Colman Andrews. Very recent cookbooks include The Catalan Kitchen: From mountains to city and sea – recipes from Spain's culinary heart by Emma Warren; Catalonia: Spanish Recipes from Barcelona and Beyond; and Catalan Food: Culture and Flavors from the Mediterranean. For an older example, stop by the Kislak Center when on campus and ask to see the facsimile of a 14th century Catalan cookbook Llibre d'aparellar de menjar.

A Catalan Cookery Book: A Collection of Impossible Recipes cover art



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