November 1st was our first National Spanish Holiday, All Saints Day. It honestly snuck up on us. Brooks had from Wednesday to Sunday off, but it wasn’t until his coworkers started talking about their holiday events, that we learned what the days off were all about.
We could use some more lessons on the history of All Saints Day, but what we learned is that this holiday is celebrated with families, honoring and remembering their deceased loved ones. Most families gather for mass and bring flowers to place at the grave sites of friends and family. The rest of the day is spent with family celebrating and spending time together.
Brooks and I had a desire to share and learn from the Spanish culture, so we brainstormed ideas to partake in the holiday without intruding on others’ time with family. Then my Spanish teacher showed photos of traditional foods eaten on All Saints Day. Even though I could not understand the names of these foods, I knew Brooks and I needed to find them and try them for ourselves.
After recently visiting Toledo with my Sister and Mother In-Law, I thought this historic town would be perfect to spend the day and learn more about the culture. It is only a 45 minute bus ride to the town from Downtown Madrid so it is really the perfect day trip. Here’s what we experienced followed by photos from the day.
Castañadas, or chestnuts, are the traditional All Saints Day food I was most excited to try! This dish consists of simply roasting chestnuts and eating them with your family. The whole image sounded dreamy to me and every time I thought about castañadas, I could not help but sing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” to myself. (My apologies to everyone who now has The Christmas Song stuck in their head). The castañadas did not taste like what I expected. It was more of a potato taste, but it was a warm and hardy snack. I can see why they make for a good fall or winter treat.
Buñuelos de Viento
Buñuelos de Viento are similar to doughnut holes (forgive me great pastry chefs out there if I’m wrong!). I’ve eaten them at a local pastry shop here in Spain before, but seeing them on All Saints Day was incredible. There were a plethora of custard, chocolate, orange, lemon, and cream filled dough balls. The history behind these treats date back to at least the 1600’s and come with a legend. The story told is when a Buñuelos de Viento is eaten, a soul is released from purgatory. The next time you have a doughnut hole, you can remember the Buñuelos de Vientos and think about similar pastries being enjoyed by Spaniards more than 400 years ago.
Huesos de Santo
Huesos de Santo is translated to be “Bones of Saints.” I did not catch the translation until after eating one and then noting the slight shape and color similarities to a bone. These sweet treats are nothing as frightening as their name makes them out to be. The Huesos de Santo are about the size of a roll of coins but incredibly rich. I took one bight and decided I needed to save the rest for after lunch. The outside of the Huesos de Santo is a marzipan and rolled into the center is a filling. The traditional filling is a mixture made from egg yoks, which is what I tried. Marzipan was a key flavor for the Huesos de Santo, but the more dominantly flavor was pure sweetness.
The Panellets where my favorite All Saints Day treat. The design of the Panellets are a mixture of potatoes, sugar, and almonds, rolled into a ball and covered in pine nuts. It had a resemblance to a payday, but softer, and peanuts were replaced with pine nuts. Those with peanut allergies may want to look up these delicious desserts.
Okay, so in reality we did not learn about Spanish culture much past the food we ate. But, Brooks and I got to walk around beautiful Toledo and eat rich foods. We look forward to taking our friends and family to this incredible town in the future. By then I am sure we will have more information about the town and Spanish history to share!