The calçotada is one of the biggest events organized by the Catalan Business Club (CBC) every year. Over the weekend, almost 200 members of the IESE community took part in this special tradition. But…what’s a calçotada? Carles Jurnet, Class of 2017, one of the main organizers explains what is involved.
A calçotada is a traditional Catalan meal revolving around eating calçots. Calçots are a type of leek-shaped sweet onions that are grown in the Tarragona region and are only harvested in winter. For those who have not experienced this before, it may seem unusual to have a whole meal around an onion but there is definitely more to it than it seems.
Calçots are planted in trenches and are successively covered with earth as they grow, so the white and edible part grows as the onion tries to seek for the light. Once harvested, calçots are very simply grilled over an open fire, wrapped with paper, served on terracota tiles. To enjoy it, the first step is to peel the onion with your bare hands and then dip it in romesco sauce. The key to a good calçotada often lies in the romesco, a traditional catalan sauce. Each restaurant has its own romesco recipe, and many of them compete to be the best one. In short, its basic ingredients are oil, garlic, tomatos, dried red peppers, almonds, hazelnuts and vinegar.
Normally, people go to restaurants on the countryside or masies (ancient family-owned rural houses turned into restaurants) where they can eat calçots outdoors without worrying about making a mess. When everybody is full of calçots, people continue the meal inside with a feast of roasted lamb, sausage and white beans. Of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without plenty of red wine and cava.
Catalans are a very integrative society and are always happy to welcome people from other countries to take part in our traditions and festivities. In this case, putting on the bibs, getting our hands messy and drinking wine from a porrón turned out to be the best ice-breakers to integrate international students into the diverse IESE community. Maggie, an exchange student from the U.S was especially surprised: “I didn’t know what a calçotada was about and I didn’t understand why it takes the whole day to eat grilled onions. At the end, it was super fun and I got to know many of the IESE students better”.
For the CBC, it was very rewarding for us to see students from all over the world enjoying our traditions. Thanks to everyone for taking part and we hope to see you again next year!