Spanish Restaurants in Heidelberg - by Cristian Gallardo
When Spain is named to someone, the reactions vary from commentaries regarding warm Mediterranean beaches and different kinds of entertainment to the continue political instability. But the gastronomy usually awakes good memories and the discussion would stayed in that realm. The reality is like many other nations at some point, many Spaniards had to leave their country since the start of the financial crisis of 2008 to search for work and economic stability. From all of the individuals that had to leave Spain, many I would argue, as any other immigrant had to start from the beginning. Gastronomy is a market open to immigrants and usually the first option for many when settling in other country.
In this paper I take a look at the phenomenon of the Spanish food in Heidelberg. I analyzed bravely the impact that Spanish food has had in the city, and how this is reflected in the distribution of the restaurants within the space of the city.
After looking at the amount of the Spanish restaurants, six in total, in a 108 square kilometers a question arises. Is the existence of these restaurants answering to Spanish or to the German community in Heidelberg?
For this paper I conducted a field work with an interview to the owner of the restaurant Ole-Ole, Joaquin Bretones. I also visited all of the Restaurants that describe themselves as
Spanish. I did not included shops focus in selling Spanish products, even though some of them also offer some kind of prepared food. I also looked at the census made by the Spanish embassy to know how many Spaniard’s live in Heidelberg. I also created a map, while geocoding the position of the restaurants in Heidelberg.
The interview with Joaquin Bretones, owner of Ole-Ole was deeply illustrative, without knowing he answered and gave details on the frameworks that we had discussed in class. This frameworks around food are meanings, memories, semiotics, practices, boundaries and negotiation. The first framework that I looked at was the Meaning that clients and owners of the restaurant attached to Spanish food. Spain is well known for its cuisine and gastronomy, many well-known Chefs are Spanish and this tends to have an influence in the status of Spanish food abroad. Another framework to which I also pay attention was to the Memories that some people relate when eating Spanish food. Bretones mentioned that one of his clients told him, that when he was in the restaurant, he would feel like he was still on holidays. Many The Semiotics or how do foods, and other signs and symbols associated with eating code space, was a framework that I notice in the internal space of the restaurants but not necessarily in the urban perspective. Because the number of restaurants is small the urban implications in them are limited. In terms of the Practices around Spanish food, I asked Bretones how Spanish Tapas had change the way their German clients react to eat. Regarding Boundaries or how Spanish food shapes the body, gender, age, class, community of the clients, he mentioned the high number of female and lesbian couples in the restaurants, which opened the possibilities for a sociological study. The framework of Negotiation refers to the use of foods to negotiate social spaces and stablish boundaries.
3. Description of the Map
In the map it can be seen that the concentration of Spanish restaurants clearly spread the further they are from the city Centre. In the interview to the owner of restaurant Ole-Ole, he mentioned the difficulties to open a restaurant in Heidelberg. The old town is spread along the river Neckar that helped the city to create the longest pedestrian street in Germany. This street is also delimited on both sides by mountains, this makes the old town of Heidelberg very narrow and limits the urbanization. Restaurant Chambao and La tapa can be found very close to the most touristic points of Heidelberg, namely the Old Bridge and the main Church. In Bergheim, the next district of Heidelberg following the river to the west close to the train station, is the restaurant Don Robert. To the south along the mountain is Mesón Madrid in the Weststadt district. In the same area, a couple of street further direction southeast the restaurant Ole-Ole was settled. Far south from the city center, in a more rural area, in the limits of the city of Heidelberg is the restaurant Don Jamón. This is a four storage winery that needed a space difficult to find in the narrow streets of Heidelberg. The creation of the map and the interview helped to create a fair description of the phenomenon of Spanish food in Heidelberg.
After visiting all of the restaurants in Heidelberg that present themselves as Spanish and conducting an interview, I concluded that the existence of six restaurants answers the needs of a majority of German clients that relate Spanish cuisine with high quality food that reminds them of holidays and life quality.
The ownership of the six restaurants differs according to the district where they are. Chambao, La Tapa and Don Jamón are owned by Germans, while Mesón Madrid, Ole-Ole and Don Robert have a two Spanish and a French ownership respectively. Paradoxically the concentration of German ownership in the city center highlights perhaps the interest of the city to stablish gentrification within the most touristic area regarding ownership.
The symbols shown in all of the restaurants correspond with the south of Spain, the Fan, flamenco dancer, wooden chairs or mosaics of Andalucía are usually in the restaurants. This part of Spain holds many tourists during the summer months, especially from the north and center European countries.
The majority of the costumers are German, this had also shape the food and prices of the menus. The opening hours of the Spanish restaurants in Heidelberg are all very similar and answer to the needs of the German clients. La Tapa, main course of these restaurants, is usually thought to be consume during the whole day, however in Heidelberg the time window to do so, is between 17:00 and 22:00 pm. The prices of the Tapas are also very similar from one restaurant to the other, they vary from 3 Euros to 7 euros depending on the content. The Tapa is usually consume with one drink, usually wine or beer. However in Germany several Tapas will be ordered together. The price is usually only affordable to a limited
amount of clients, namely the one in the city town and Weststadt, where the highest rents in Heidelberg offer that customer base.
To sum up, the Spanish food phenomenon rises from the necessity of a business community. The relation with the Spanish community is very limited but the mentioned ideas on sexuality and gender open the possibilities to new studies. Is the Spanish cuisine more open to some sexual preferences as others? If so, are communities of different sexual preferences shaping the urban structure of the cities?