Ruta Sepetys’s A Taste of Spain:
Traditional Red Sangria and Tortilla de Patatas
Spain is also a culinary capital of the world. While working on the book, food played a large role in my research. As you may have noted, there are many mentions of Spanish food throughout the novel and, yes, I delighted in tasting the numerous dishes and delicacies I mention in the story! To immerse myself in the period and atmosphere, I collected archival menus, drink cards, room keys, and even place settings from the Castellana Hilton. While researching, I highlighted mentions of food in vintage magazine and news service clippings. I interviewed a gentleman who was a waiter at the Castellana Hilton in Madrid for many years.
These recipes were created by chef Joseph Baer of Nashville, Tennessee to echo the following scenes in the book.
An author has nothing without readers. Thank you for choosing The Fountains of Silence and helping me give voice to an underrepresented part of history.
• Chapter 17 – Traditional Red Sangria
Daniel returns to the hotel from his errands with Ana. They find the lobby brimming with people, all chattering in English.
Ana informs Daniel that it’s the cocktail event prior to the monthly luncheon for the American Club of Madrid.
While researching the novel, I read through 1950s archival copies of the hotel magazine, Castellana. The magazine often covered the events of the American Club. The pictorial spreads described the guests, the lunchtime libations, and the menus. So I incorporated the historical detail of the monthly luncheon for the American Club into the novel. I imagined Daniel returning to the hotel in dusty jeans to find waiters balancing sparkling trays of chilled sangria threading through dozens of well-heeled guests.
Traditional Red Sangria
- 1/2 medium apple (cored, skin on, chopped into small pieces)
- 1/2 medium orange (rind on, sliced into small pieces, large seeds removed, plus more slices for garnish)
- 3-4 tablespoons organic brown sugar or cane sugar
- 3/4 cup orange juice (plus more to taste)
- 1/3 cup brandy (plus more to taste)
- 750 ml bottle dry Spanish red wine
- 1 cup ice cubes
- Lime slices, for garnish (optional)
- Add apples, oranges, and sugar to a large pitcher and muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon for 45 seconds.
- Add orange juice and brandy and muddle again to combine for 30 seconds. Add red wine and stir to incorporate, then taste and adjust flavor as needed by adding more of any ingredient. Stir to combine. Add ice and stir once more to chill.
- Serve as is, or with a bit more ice. Garnish with orange or lime slices (optional).Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours, though best when served fresh.
• Chapter 74 – Tortilla de Patatas
Although Americans ate very well when they visited Spain in the 1950s, many Spaniards went hungry. The lobster appetizer on the hotel menu in Madrid cost more than many in Spain earned in a month. Throughout the novel, Daniel displays quiet generosity, often through food. When he visits Ana’s home in Vallecas he arrives with wine and snacks. He invites Ana to a room service dinner and asks her to join him at the restaurant Lhardy. And when he attends the capea with Rafa and Fuga, he makes sure to bring lunch—Tortilla de patatas, oranges, and Manchego cheese.
In many cultures, sharing a meal or a bit of food is an expression of generosity and love. It allows us to take a moment to pause, be present, and enjoy the company of those around us. To celebrate that tradition, I’ve included many scenes in the novel with meals, shared food, and the characters joined together at a table. Can you identify those scenes?
Tortilla de Patatas
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 large eggs
- Preheat the broiler. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Add the potato and onion slices, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the potatoes and onion are tender, about 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Scrape the potato mixture into the bowl, being sure not to leave any in the skillet.
- Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the egg mixture, spreading it out in an even layer. Cover and cook over low heat until the tortilla is set on the bottom and the edges, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil 8 inches from the heat just until the top is set, about 1 minute longer. Set a large plate over the skillet and carefully invert the tortilla onto the plate. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.