The great croissant controversy

Blog dissing Spain's 'cruasán' gets panned, by way of 687 heated comments and counting

Little did Mikel López Iturriaga suspect what a can of worms he was opening when he posted a piece about the dismal quality of Spanish croissants on his EL PAÍS food blog, El Comidista. Published on February 3, the post bemoaned "this country's capacity for destroying the croissant" and described the version found in Spanish cafés as "a glop of dough that is only crunchy at the tips (if you're lucky), covered with a sticky, syrupy layer unknown in other parts of the world, and filled with a rubbery puff pastry that sticks to the roof of of your mouth."

The journalist went on to compare the Spanish cruasán (the hispanicized name for "croissant") with its glorious French counterpart, and consulted with three Spanish bakery experts on the reasons behind the notable difference in quality. Clearly, the issue touched a national nerve. In a matter of hours, the post drew over 640 reader responses, besides being widely referenced on Facebook and Twitter.

Spaniards discussed what should constitute the ideal croissant as though it were a matter of national culinary pride on a par with paella or tortilla de patatas. On Monday, López Iturriaga published a follow-up piece expressing surprise at the degree of passion expressed in the comments.

"There were people who supported my theory that the Spanish cruasán is, in broad terms, contemptible; others criticized me, calling me exaggerated, ignorant, a simpleton and unpatriotic - I was even kindly encouraged to move to France."

The affair even developed international ramifications when some readers weighed in with allegations that the best crescent-shaped pastries are to be found in Argentina, where they are called, quite reasonably, medias lunas.

Others turned to the past to seek out the true origin of the croissant, with two factions emerging: one pro-Austria, one pro-France. In his second post, López Iturriaga noted that according to the (French) Dictionnaire universel du pain , a definitive 1,200-page volume on the art of baking, the theory that the crescent was invented during the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 is pure legend.

Ultimately, the controversy served to draw up a map of the Spanish bakeries where one may indeed find a decent croissant, and covering most regions. After thanking readers for their contributions, López Iturriaga ended on a hopeful note: "All the pastry shops and bakeries mentioned here give us reason for hope: if we support this type of establishment and reject the junk served in other places, perhaps one day the level will begin to rise."

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS