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The refined palate

The Spanish answer to Viagra: Tortilla Sacromonte. Swallow this and liberate your libido!

The European population grows older, birth rates are dropping, youths stay at home longer, and divorces outnumber marriages. At the same time in a smiling quarter of Andalusia, Spain, life takes the slow lane between sun, wine, tapas, and flamenco. While the French experiment with frogs, the Italian with oysters, the Germans with celeriac, the Poles with beer, the Hungarians with the blood of freshly slaughtered pigs, and the rest of the world with those little blue pills, the Andalusians hoard their little secret.

It all began in the 18th century, in Sacromonte, the gypsy quarter of Granada, home to artists and artisans. Every first of February, for the celebration of San Cecilio, the city abbot prepared a lavish banquet to honour the high society of Granada. The night before the feast, according to legend, burglars broke into the abbey and pilfered the entire food supply. Searching the canteen desperately for a solution, the good man found a bag in which the butcher had left the “family jewels” of the stolen animals.

He could think of only one recipe on the spur of the moment. In De Medicamentis Libri, Marcello Empirico recommended eating bull’s genitals in a honey and olive oil dressing three days in a row, “to give more energy and soul.”

The priest rolled up his sleeves and hit the stove. He laid the cleaned brains and testicles into a casserole dish with water and a dash of white wine. He let the ingredients simmer for five minutes. He fried sliced onions, carrots and pepper in olive oil in a deep pan. He peeled the testicles like one would potatoes and chopped them into very little pieces together with the brains. He beat the eggs separately and he added everything into the pan. He left all the ingredients to solidify like a regular tortilla and served the dish for dinner.

Did the abbot want to prove to the high society of Granada the miracles of God, to improve the area’s birth rate or simply please his unaware guests? He certainly created a recipe with miraculously aphrodisiac qualities, a recipe that was passed down the generations until it arrived, steaming on our table.

A “Tortilla Sacromonte” is served as a traditional dish in most restaurants in Andalusia. Especially during the San Cecilio celebration they go like hotcakes.

Most people say the meat tastes like chicken (what doesn’t), others see it as an unrivalled speciality. Whatever its flavour, it remains the case that Andalusia, according to the official statistic from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, has the highest birth rate of all of Spain.

Ingredients (six servings):

100g bull’s or lamb’s brains

100g bull’s or lamb’s testicles

extra virgin olive oil

one glass of white wine

six eggs






Put the clean brains and testicles into a casserole dish with water, salt, some bay leaves, and a dash of white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes. When everything is cooked, remove from the casserole dish, chop, and sauté in a frying pan. Beat the eggs separately. Then add the eggs to the mixture in the frying pan and smooth out the surface. Let the mixture solidify and serve.

Author: Irene Sacchi

Photos: Claude Dagenais, Sieto Verver, Matthew Cole

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