Commonly used objects Made in Spain. Discover some of the common objects used and made in Spain as; bota, porrón or botijo.
Sometimes, when we see the same building, landscape or object every day, it begins to lose its special appeal for us. We’ve all found ourselves, at one time or another, surprised when a friend who’s come to visit us stands in inspired admiration before a plaza, a cathedral, or a monument that’s already long become a commonplace fixture of everyday scenery from our local perspective. It’s not that we no longer value these attractions, it’s just that we don’t really notice them anymore.
London residents most likely smile when they see tourists snapping photos of one another in front of red double-decker busses and phone booths. These are just everyday elements for Londoners.
Why is it that when we Spaniards use our hands to communicate the idea of drinking (alcohol), we bend our three central fingers and stick out our thumb and pinky, drawing the thumb close to the lips? We’re simulating an object that a Spaniard would immediately recognize, but which may not be so common for people from other countries. The porron!
This glass, cone-shaped object with two tubes in the bottom, one used as a handle and for filling it with wine, and the other used to pour the liquid out of it, is an object with Catalan-Aragonese origins that is widely used across Spain. We have to reflect on what its popularity implies: the cultural tradition of sharing wine in group-ceremony settings in a way that is both hygienic and practical justifies its existence. A person drinking alone wouldn’t need a porrón, they could just use a glass or drink straight from the bottle to quench their thirst.
Another commonly used object made in Spain associated with wine is the bota. It’s made out of goat skin and –traditionally- a waterproofing finish is also applied. Traditionally, the bota has a tear drop shape and it can hold about three quarters of a liter to a liter and a half of liquid. It’s a wonderful way to transport wine to the countryside, to parties, or on trips, without running any of the risk that a breakable container involves. Furthermore, it protects its content from exposure to light, and it’s air tight, which means the quality of the drink is maintained better and for a longer period.
I remember a bus trip I took once to the south of Spain with a group of Italian students who were studying Spanish. When we stopped at a gas station to satisfy a few of the student’s urgent physiological needs, some of them asked the station attendant for water. The attendant didn’t show them to a normal faucet, but instead pointed to a ceramic object with a narrow spout and an opening separated by a handle on top. “That water is cooler” he affirmed. I’ll never forget the look of surprise on the faces of those kids or the way they struggled to figure out how to use the thing. The attendant, friendly as can be and showing no sign of teasing, headed over, lifted the container up with both hands, and offered the Italians a practical lesson on how to use a botijo. The thirsty students wasted no time in putting what they’d learned to practice, not without excited giggles and shouts of satisfaction.
One of the most fundamental features of Spanish cooking traditions is the tortilla de patatas (potato omelet), also called a tortilla española (but what Spaniard calls it a tortilla española), which has given rise to the need of a device as practical as the vuelca tortillas: a flat plate made of ceramic or polished wood with a handle that helps the user flip the egg, onion and potato mix without running the risk of getting it all over the kitchen.
You may notice, when travelling outside of Spain’s urban centers, the absence of bill boards along the highways. This is due to a 1988 ruling that banned them there. Despite the ruling however, one imposing silhouette continues making a bold presence to motorists: 91 enormous bulls (14 meters tall) flank many of the high ways across the Spanish landscape. The bulls were originally smaller, and they were created as part of a publicity campaign for the brandy “Veterano”, made by the Osborne group (which is why everyone knows the bull as el toro de Osborne). Over time, the advertising text was eventually removed from the bulls –although in Mexico it can still be seen for the brandy Magno, which is made by the same group. After some difficulty, the bull would go on to become a Spanish icon, even appearing sometimes on the Spanish flag, as if it were a national shield, at sporting events and even among Spanish soldiers serving abroad.