Food & Drinks

Oysters, Paella and Offal: Everyday Foods Gone Upmarket

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Oysters, Paella and Offal: Everyday Foods Gone Upmarket
Photo avlxyz / Flickr

Foods that were once for peasants that now grace the table of the world's best restaurants: here are some tasteful examples.

Today, oysters are considered a luxury and they come with a hefty price tag to match. But two hundred years ago, oysters were so plentiful that they were consumed with gusto by the poor - either on their own or used to fill out beef pies and hotpots when the considerably more expensive meat was in short supply. It was over-fishing that eventually drove up the price of oysters, and with it the prestige associated with being able to afford them.

In Spain, paella was once a humble peasant dish. But these days a tiny portion with a dainty garnish can set you back a pretty penny in many top-end restaurants. While in the coastal areas of Galicia and the Basque Country, a fishy off-cut has become all the rage in fine-dining establishments. While commonly referred to as cod cheeks, ‘cocochas’ are the fleshy throats of the fish. They were once removed by impoverished fishermen before the cod went to market and nobody noticed they were missing. Today they command a high price for their silky texture and unique flavour.

Likewise with offal, a staple of poor working-class families around the world. The British eventually turned their noses up at bone marrow and liver until St John, a Michelin-star restaurant in London, reminded everybody how good they could be. At a price, of course.

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