Respigos – Colliding Gastronomic Cultures

March 13, 2009 By: erik Category: Food, Spain, USA, Weird 462 views

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RespigosLast night for dinner, I had respigos. One of our Thursday night salsa dancing friends has a farm, and another has a restaurant. These respigos were taken straight from the farm to the restaurant and prepared for us last night. Do we know how to pick friends or what?

When I asked what they were, I was told that they were the leaves of the nabo. I’d heard the word nabo before, and knew from context that it was some kind of vegetable from the garden, but I’d never heard it used in direct relation with an object that I could identify. iPhone Spanish-English dictionary to the rescue: nabos are turnips! Actually, most usages of turnip in English are metaphorical as well (truck, blood, etc.).

So this morning, I head to Google and search for respigo and find confirmation of what I was told the night before, that that word is very specific to this region of Spain. In general I’ve found that terms related to specific items on farms vary widely from region to region. Searching for “respigo turnip” gives only one hit: an English tourism gastronomy guide to the local town of Laredo where I ate the respigos last night. The Royal Acadamy of Spanish, the official body that defines what words form part of the Spanish language, says that it’s a rural Cantabrian word for the seeds (not leaves) of the berza. So what’s a berza? I find that the best way to translate words that are part of biology taxonomy is to look up the Spanish word on and click over to the English article on And what does that take me to but the article about Collard Greens.

Collard greens, as wikipedia so nicely lays out, are an important part of Southern American cuisine. Having never made them myself, I always assumed they were mostly spinach, but I see now that turnip leaves are often used. To be honest, when I ate the respigos last night, all I could think of was “sort of like spinach”, but now that I’ve made the collard greens connection, it’s obvious. Although collard greens are often served with a lot of vinegar, and the respigos had none. Someone around the table mentioned that, where they’re from, turnip leaves are eaten with pancakes made from corn meal. Duh, corn bread and collard greens!

It’s weird when you find direct parallels between the region where you grew up and the local region where you live on another continent.Respigos

Boy howdy, they sure was good!

Southerners, feel free to mock my ignorance in the comments. You know you want to.

  • Michael

    “Southerners, feel free to mock my ignorance in the comments. You know you want to.”

    I came here for this.

    Collard greens, mostly spinach? They are mostly collards!

  • DUDE! [removed flammatory response]

    Really? You’re from Morganton and don’t know what Collards are?

    We eat ours with a vinegar that has been infused with hot peppers from the garden. Mmmmm.

    My family cut the collard greens real fine. I like them this way, but I’ve switched as of late to how Amy’s family does it. They leave them very leafy. They slow cook them in a turkey fryer outside (they stink cooking) with a ham bone, chicken stock, tabasco and vinegar. Wow. We have collard greens and black eye peas on New Year’s Day.

  • Due to the high concentration of state institutions, Morganton has a very high Yankee immigrant population. I’m only a first generation Southerner, so my experiences with southern cooking were more or less limited to the school cafeteria.

    I see now that “inflammatory” is gradually going to lose its prefix like its sibling “inflammable” has.

  • “I see now that ‘inflammatory’ is gradually going to lose its prefix like its sibling ‘inflammable’ has.”


  • This discussion has highlighted one of the benefits of being an expatriate: In your own country, when you are ignorant of some common cultural knowledge, it makes you look like a fool; when you’re in a foreign country, it makes you seem exotic.

  • bawa

    Erik, correct me if I am wrong, but I have bought nabos here in Bilbao, and they are like shorter versions of what  Asians call “mooli”, translated as white radish and they look like a fat carrot, but white. Turnips are round…now I am totally confused!!!!

  • Asier Franco Gutiérrez

    Hello, first of all, sorry for my english.

    I live in Laredo, and have been taking a look to this article.

    I don´t know if I undersood wrong but I would like to clarify that respigos is not berza. Respigos (as they are known only in Laredo, because they are cooked in a diferent way) is turnip greens. In Galicia they are known as “grelos”, and there is a famous dish called “Lacon con grelos”.

    Cooking Respigos is very easy. Firstly they are boiled whit a bit of salt, then they must to be strongly queezze, till leave them almost dry. Having done this, they are fried with a spirt of oliva oil a little of ham (“de jabugo” if it is possible) and a pinch of salt.

    You know “berza” as collard greens or savoy cabbage. This vegetable is used here for cooking the most famous dish in Cantabria “cocido montañes”.

    Good bye

    • Thank you very much for your comment! It was very informative. Your English is excellent an easy to understand. Saludos!