Did you know that during the pandemic, the most researched item for homely indulgence was churros in Spain? I know! So while I am scampering to Churreria Dana in the fresh mountain air, let’s pontificate the history of churros. I mean, who does not want to get to know the origin and the importance of this quintessentially Spanish thing many of us travel here dying to try?
This oil drenched dough stick of cholesterol with velvety chocolate is a winter warmer for a Spaniard living a rural life, and eating it is a social act of complete nonchalance to mess, calories or nutritional value. I introduced my children to churros on the second day of our arrival to Andalucia. It was a destabilising journey on the ship from Portsmouth to Santander, so what better way to ground my kids than taking them to a local churreria where this rich breakfast is served only until 11. I will not want to forget the look on my daughter’s face when she tucked in and dripped chocolate on her yellow t-shirt…I really did not care about the mess! Churros is all about this- forgetting perfection, cleanliness and properness ….eat, drop, enjoy, wipe up and start all over again!
Churros is also called the “fruit of the frying pan” and it thought to have been originated in the 8th century Andalus. Or wait, others claim it, too! The Egyptians apparently had it and there are drawings of it in the tomb of Ramses III processing wheat and rolling it into dough before they fried it. (Ahem, ahem).
Then the Chinese spoke – they are convinced it is from them, as they used to eat the same type of fried dough for breakfast. They call it youtiao and the Arab or Portuguese merchants must have brought it, we are told, and made it popular in Andalus on the other end of the Silk Road.
The story of churros on Andalusi land ropes in the shepherds, who liked churros for three reasons- it was easy to make, they could eat it cold, and they were filling. I mean you have two of the most mundane ingredients- water and flour- that makes it, what os there not to love? Like many things, it was later incorporated into the Christian lifestyle especially after the arrival of chocolate with America known in Europe (not discovered, colonized, my daughter would say) and cocoa was the new luxury of the elite.
Wait some more and you will see that there are still other interpretations of the churros story. They might be called churros because when frying the dough it takes a similar shape to the horns of the churras sheep…the interpretation could swirl around for a long time, like churros itself, a lengthy piece rolled into a mountain of oily dough…so ia m going to stop. It is time to tuck in.
(As a variation of churros, there is porra, a similarly fried dough with added baking powder to it for the extra thickness. In its case it is called porra as its name comes from the Latin porrum, leek, to which it resembles.)