Picanteras and guisanderas. Two beautiful words that on both sides of the Atlantic define a way of working, the job of some women who have become guardians of the gastronomic traditions of their respective places of residence. On the other side, the spicy ones from Arequipa, Peruvians who maintain some establishments, the spicy places, and a way of cooking that they inherited from their mothers and grandmothers and of those who consider themselves heirs and continuators.
On this side, the Asturian guisanderas, which, grouped in a Club, aim to safeguard traditional and healthy cuisine. From one shore or another, from Arequipa or Asturias, how important is the role of these women who for years have been and are in charge of traditional food houses, with hardly any media presence, defending a style of cooking that we should never lose .
All of them have been protagonists of Féminas, the international congress of gastronomy, women and the rural world that has celebrated its second edition during three intense days in the south-west of Asturias.
With the magnificent setting of the Parador del Monasterio de Corias, in Cangas del Narcea, as the main venue, a good number of cooks from other Spanish regions, European and African countries, plus the already mentioned Peruvians, joined Asturian colleagues in a succession of presentations and meals of maximum interest. The perfect opportunity to learn about the gastronomic peculiarities of that secularly isolated southwest of Asturias, where bean stew and cider have barely had a presence throughout history, replaced by pot of cabbage or Cangas wines.
And with its own products such as that chosco de Tineo, made from a head of sirloin and pork tongue, a quality sausage hardly known outside that area. In the different dinners and lunches of the congress, chefs and journalists have had the opportunity to discover these dishes and these products along with other equally traditional ones such as cabbage stuffed with veal or the meat roll. All in emblematic restaurants in the councils of Cangas, Tineo and Allande such as Bar Blanco, Casa Lula or La Nueva Allandesa.
Among the numerous participants in talks and round tables, always with women as protagonists, the most outstanding figure was Carme Ruscalleda, without a doubt the most important chef in Spain, who although she closed her restaurant Sant Pau in 2018, with three stars, maintains the bi-starred in Tokyo, plus Moments in Barcelona. She intervened with her son Raúl Balam to emphasize that men and women can have the same role in the kitchen and that neither is above the other. And they took the opportunity to announce the imminent opening of the Cuina de Sant Pau, in the same space facing the sea where the three-star restaurant was, with the same spirit with which Carme and her husband founded it in 1988. Especially interesting was the round table with women who run livestock farms in different parts of Spain and who lamented the lack of knowledge that exists in the rural world and that politicians legislate thinking more about the urban than in the countryside.
But without a doubt, the great cheerleaders of the congress have been the spicy women of Arequipa. Wearing their traditional clothes (always the best, with their most valuable jewels, something that, as they explained, is a form of respect towards their clients); paying tribute to their ancestors, of which they exhibited photos on stage; working with the heavy stone fulling mills that they use for grinding (they brought one that they later gave to the Asturian guisanderas); preparing some popular recipes or dancing a cumbia, always with as much joy as emotion. They were in charge of the meal that closed the congress at the Palacio de Merás, in Tineo.
The cook of this restaurant prepared some verdinas with crabs and lobster while the Peruvians offered nose salad, vegetable torrijitas, Arequipa ocopa and shrimp soup. A small sample of the wide repertoire of itspicanterías. Cuisine, landscape, tradition and women. Four words that define very well what this congress has been that has Asturias as its stage and that next year will continue in the Mining Basins of the Principality.