This week’s entry is not as timely, because, suffice it to say, it’s been a trying week. I finished classes for the semester, which means final papers and final exams are upon me. Not to mention a cold. This has left little time to ponder food. BUT I haven’t left my exploration of Spanish gastronomy entirely…

The other day in the supermercado of El Corte Inglés, I couldn’t help but notice the sheer quantity of turrón for sale. Turrón is a Spanish candy, typical during the Christmas season. Its main ingredients include almonds, honey, sugar, and egg whites, typically ground into a paste and shaped into a large bar. People were lined up to buy one of the many varieties.

I didn’t pick up anything there, but instead made a little trip to my favorite bakery, Horno San Onofre (C/ Hortaleza, 9). There, I asked if they had any turrón. “What kind?” Was the response; they had many. Turrón de Jijona, one of the most popular varieties, is made up of 64% almonds. The ground almonds and an addition of oil give it a soft, smooth texture. Turrón de Alicante is the other most popular variety, and is made of 60% almonds, not ground, which makes it harder and crunchy. The baker listed some other varieties. I finally settled upon “nata con nueces” (literally, cream with walnuts). She wrapped it up and I headed out with my little package.

At home I broke into it. I found it very rich and sweet. Not something I would necessarily crave on my own, having not grown up with it, but undoubtedly big in Spain during Christmastime.

At that same bakery, they were also selling polvorones and mantecados, among other things. “Polvo” means “dust” or “powder” in Spanish, and as such, a polvorón is an almost dust-like treat, made of flour, sugar, milk and nuts. Mantecados are similar, with the addition of – what else – pig fat; “manteca” means “lard” in Spanish. Although I didn’t partake of the mantecado (yet??), I did try a polvorón. Light, dusty and crumbly, it has definitely earned its name. Mexican Wedding Cookies in the U.S. are a variation of the Spanish polvorones.

I’ve hardly finished listing the typical Spanish Christmas goodies, but that’s enough sweets for me for now. Maybe later I will write about the Roscón de Reyes, mazapán, and alfajores.

Today is December 10th, which means we are well into the Christmas season (Spain is, after all, historically a very Catholic country). The streets of Madrid are lined with Christmas lights; there’s a huge fake tree in Sol, the center of the city, and all department stores are brightly marketing their wares. American Christmas movies badly dubbed in Spanish are being played on TV, and Christmas music can be heard in stores. Thus for this month of December, this blog will be dedicated to Christmas culinary traditions in Europe: next week I’ll try to write on the Christmas markets in Madrid (and maybe wrap up this entry??). The week after that I’m headed to Italy to spend Christmas with my friend Sara and her family, and so I’ll write on Italian Christmas culinary traditions. We are also taking a two-day trip to Germany and will be visiting the Christmas market (Christkindlmarket) in Munich, so stay tuned because lots of exciting Christmasy things are on the way…

a basket of polvorones

polvorones

mantecados


Turrón all wrapped up…

then unwrapped…

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