By Nancy Todd Comments by: The Blogdog
Walking down the street in Barcelona, a smoky, sweet scent draws me to the street vendors, the castañeras. In many cities including Granada, Madrid, Toledo and Seville, the autumn food culture in Spain is being celebrated.
The castañeras sell hot roasted chestnuts (castañas) and sweet potatoes. Luckily for me, a castañera is just across the street from my yoga studio and after class I treat myself all fall to hot sweet potatoes.
The hot potatoes come wrapped in brown paper. Walking through the chilly fall air, my hands are warmed as they fit perfectly around the sweet potato. The outer skin, black and crackly, has been cooked by an older person who places the potatoes with care in a steel drum with charcoal. I eat some of the skin, other parts I peel away. The rich orange potato is hot and soft in my mouth.
I give thanks for living in a country where this old tradition thrives and the news in Spain that is excitedly bantered about is that the castañeras are out. The streets used to have many castañeras but each year there are fewer. I never see a young person roasting, it is only the older people.
A tradition on the Day of the Dead, November 1, is for families to go to cemeteries to take flowers and honor their loved ones. Some families will bring a grill and roast sweet potatoes and chestnuts although this is less prevalent than in past years. The serious mourners, who spent the entire day, would hold the autumn food in their hands to keep warm. Now, few young people go to the cemeteries and if they do it is not an all day commitment but to bring flowers and stay a few minutes. Cemetery or not, check out those hot sweet potatoes.Negu, The Blogdog: “Really Darling, I did have something more tasty in mind…..like a glass of cava (Spanish champagne) and a juicy steak.”