“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.
“Those thou seest there,” answered his master, “with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long.”
“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”
“It is easy to see,” replied Don Quixote, “that thou art not used to this business of adventures…”
Four hundred years later, a few of those giants remain, still unvanquished. Don Quixote’s windmills draw thousands of tourists to Spain’s La Mancha region every year for a quick photo op, but if you slow down a little and linger awhile, this business of adventure can be yours, too.
There are in fact a few different places to see windmills in La Mancha, but our favorite is the town of Consuegra – the only location where you can dine inside the windmill itself! The windmills of Consuegra sit atop a small crop of hills rising from the plain of La Mancha. Fun fact: La Mancha is not the name of a town but refers to a large arid plain south of Madrid extending from the mountains of Toledo, to the hills around Cuenca to the west and the Sierra Morena mountains to the south. It is one of the most productive agricultural regions in Spain, despite being very dry. With few rivers and streams, the windmills were the only way to mill the area’s grain for making bread.
The windmills of Consuegra are special for two reasons. One of them still works and mills grain to this day, affording visitors a chance to see this very labor-intensive way of milling flour the old-fashioned way. The flour it produces is still used to bake bread in some of Consuegra’s local panaderias (bakeries). Another is the world’s only “gastromolino,” or gastro windmill, a charming tiny little restaurant that two young chefs have restored and converted to a restaurant focused on local products. When I visited this January, we were treated to grilled onions, saffron soup, and local wild boar. As it happens, Consuegra is one of the largest growers of saffron and onions in all of Spain. The wild boar came from the Toledo mountains about 45 minutes away. In this part of central Spain, wild game is very much still part of the local diet.
Consuegra is a short distance from Toledo, as well as Madrid, making it a convenient place to visit for travelers wanting a customized itinerary in Spain, or as an add-on to A Capital Culinary Adventure in Madrid. Just ask us how!
Learn more about why you should visit Spain on a cooking vacation with TIK!
By Adrian Hall
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