Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Why Monks and Nuns Make So Many Beloved Foods

From Atlas Obscura:
In Madrid, Spain, the arrival of December means a proliferation of markets and ferias. There is the main Christmas market on Plaza Mayor, an artisans’ market on Plaza España, and mercadillos, small ferias, throughout the city. But my bullet journal usually bears only one reminder: Expoclausura, Madrid’s annual fair for monastery- and convent-made foods. With a wide selection of marzipan, turrón, polvorones, jam, and other holiday treats, Expoclausura is the place to go to for these celebrated Spanish delicacies. Made by monks and nuns from all over the country, they are known for their simple recipes, high quality, and focus on tradition.

According to Miguel Ángel del Puerto, the founder of Expoclausura, there are a little over 1,000 cloistered monasteries and convents in Spain, and close to 30 percent of them make a traditional food product. But Spanish monks and nuns aren’t unique—their brethren worldwide also veer towards the traditional when it comes to food production. In Germany and Belgium, many monasteries brew beer. In Russia, convents often bake bread and pirozhki, savory and sweet Russian pies. In Greece, monasteries make olive oil, honey, and walnut paste. In France, convents and monasteries produce cheese and wine.

In the competitive world of food and drink, one might expect monks and nuns to struggle. But that doesn’t seem to be the case—at least at the Expoclausura. Most of its stock sells out within the first few days. When I discovered the fair after moving to Madrid, I noticed a jam made by the monks of the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Huerta. Curious about what a mixture of lemon and apple would taste like, I purchased a jar. The next year, when I returned—only one week into the fair—they had already sold almost all of their jams. I made a note in my journal: “November: find out the opening day for Expoclausura and go ON THAT DAY.” (Read more.)

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