Friday, October 31, 2008

La Castanyada

Felipe and I went out today fully decked out in our finest wiggery to confirm reports that Spaniards are quickly catching on to Halloween. We were fiercely stared down by dour Catalans and thoroughly drenched with rain--a punishment by a dour Catalan god, no doubt.

It all makes us think that rumors of Spanish Halloween have been greatly exaggerated. Or perhaps that Catalans remain fiercely anti-Spanish, which in this case may also make them anti-Halloween. Nonetheless, we will venture out again tonight to conduct further investigation. The Gangsters of Love are playing at El Monasterio (Passeig Isabel II, Born) and you might remember their hip swinging, slow drawling, harmonica playing singer from the Got Bail post. I know, I know, I'll be accompanied. But one can always look...particularly when a harmonica's involved.

In any event, that still leaves us with La Castanyada. I really should have mentioned it when I last wrote about panellets, but for sheer laziness I left out that part of the story.

Since we're temporarily trapped at home by the pouring rain, I'll tell you now.

Loosely translated, La Castanyada means something like The Chestnut Season. Strictly speaking, it occurs on October 31 and November 1 when Catalans partake not only in panellets and moscatel wine, but also in roast chestnuts (castanyas in Catalan) and sweet potatoes (boniatos). As such, October not only sees the cookie market flooded with panellets, it also sees the installation of tiny shacks on select street corners where robust, soot covered women (and sometimes men) tend charcoal grills for roasting said chestnuts and sweet potatoes. The women store the chestnuts, once roasted, in giant drawers insulated with the rattiest blankets on God's green earth. And, by golly, they're brimstone hot and diabolically delicious. The chestnuts, not the blankets. The blankets you'll just have to overlook.

You can pick up a packet of 12 chestnuts for about 2.50 euros and a sweet potato for between 3 and 4 euros. Mauri Pastissería has its own chic stand at the corner of Provença and Rambla Catalunya and can also supply you with some tasty panellets. For a more authentic Castanyada experience, however, try a stand that's not a name brand. Central spots include the stand on the southwest corner of Plaça Catalunya and the one on Calle Bailen, a few blocks south of Travessera de Gracia.

But hurry! The shacks disappear soon!

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