You may have realized this by now, but food in Spain is a pretty big deal. Buying the ingredients, choosing just the right store, preparing dishes, the presentation, the first bite, talking about the food you’re eating, savoring the food, talking about the meal in general … all of these are regular practices at my in-laws’ house. Food is important. This is one of my favorite parts about Spain, because it reminds me of how fortunate we all are to be able to eat high-quality delicious food with the people we love.
I’ve talked previously about foods Spaniards eat at Christmas. Now we’re in the middle of perhaps Spain’s most important holiday: Semana Santa, or Holy Week. And, as is to be expected, food plays a major role. Of course, what people eat during this holiday season varies from region to region, from family to family. But I’ll talk about my experiences here in Castilla y León and, more specifically, Zamora.
During the Lenten season, meat used to be totally off limits on Fridays. Most Catholics (and lapsed Catholics) no longer follow this rule, but my in-laws do. So what’s for lunch on Fridays during Lent?
Potaje is a soup. It can be made with vegetables, lentils, or chickpeas. My in-laws eat a chickpea potaje, made with chickpeas, spinach, rice, garlic, and paprika. This recipe will vary greatly from household to household, though. This is for the primer plato (first plate). For the segundo plato, the second plate, they will most often eat some form of bacalao (cod) or another type of fish. For example, bacalao al ajoarriero, cod with braised vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic) and potaje de vigilia, which can have chickpeas, cod, spinach, and paprika, decorated with hard-boiled egg.
Chicharros en Escabeche
Chicharros en escabeche is a dish based on the tiny horse-mackerel (Spansh: chicharro) with garlic, broth, bay leaf, rosemary, and white wine.
Sopas de Ajo
Zamorans love garlic. They even have a garlic fair in June. in Castilla y León, they eat sopas de ajo (garlic soup) during Holy Week. In Zamora, the soup is eaten on Good Friday morning. There is a procession that starts at 5:00 in the morning (yes, this is still Spain!), and they make a stop around 7:00-8:00 in the morning to eat a little something, that being garlic soup. Not very typical for Spain, but it’s an essential tradition in Zamora, where processions are just as important as in Andalucía!
Dos y Pingada
Dos y pingada is a very Zamoran dish. It is served on Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurreción) in the morning after the procession of the Brotherhood of the Holy Resurrection. It consists of two fried eggs (thus the use of dos, meaning two), two or three slices of ham, and bread. There is even a ballad about this Zamoran tradition:
Ya resucitó el señor
y repican las campanas.
Prepara el almuerzo, chica,
y fríe dos y pingada
The Lord has been resurrected
and the bells ring
Prepare lunch, my girl
And fry up dos y pingada
And now for those of you with a sweet tooth …
Torrijas are perhaps the most widely eaten dessert of Holy Week in Spain. They are similar to French toast and made with bread, milk, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon.
Torrijas have been documented as early as the fifteenth century, and they were seen as an ideal dish for women to recover from labor. The first recipes are dated in 1607. Some speculate that this dish’s popularity during Lent may have had to do with the need to use up leftover bread, because people ate less during Lent as meat was prohibited.
Rebojos zamoranos are just that: Zamoran. Rebojos are little cakes with a crunchy top layer, due to the sugar sprinkled on them before baking, with a squishy interior. Little is known of their exact origin, although many suspect that these cakes date back to the Middle Ages, but there are no documents to back that up. Nonetheless, this recipe has been passed down from generation to generation in Zamoran kitchens.
Aceitadas are, yet again, typical in Zamora. The name comes from aceite, oil, probably due to the fact that these cookies are made with olive oil and not butter. They are circular, compact, and perfect for dunking in a mug of tea or coffee. They are distinguished due to the slight whiff of anise you will get upon biting into one. These cookies could be eaten during Lent, because they contained no lard or butter (no animal products).
If you walk along the streets of Zamora during Holy Week, you will soon be asking yourself, “What is that amazing smell?” Your answer: almendras garrapiñadas, or candied almonds. There are several little stands set up on Zamora’s main streets, all of them selling candied nuts and seeds of all kinds. The most typical (and in my mind most delicious) are the candied almonds. Even looking at the picture makes me hungry.
On Good Friday morning, during the dawn procession, brothers of the Jesús Nazareno Vulgo “La Congregación” hand out little bags of these treats.
As you can see, Holy Week is about eating too! Just check out my Instagram photo of a sign I saw in a shop here in Zamora:
What are some other typical Holy Week foods in your neighborhood?