Friday, January 7, 2011

Celebration Foods: Roscón de Reyes & Kutia

Yesterday, it was Three Kings Day. Ricky had left his shoes next to the front door at my parents’ house before going to bed. When he got up, there was a pile of presents on top of his shoes. As a child, I believed in the Three Kings too, and I remember wondering how they were able to get in through locked doors to bring gifts. The Three Kings ride camels, so I used to leave a bowl of water and some grass near my shoes for the camels to snack.

There are parades the day before the Three Kings come. My mom took Ricky to the local parade; the three kings rode in a float and threw hard candy to the kids. In Madrid, the parades are incredibly elaborate. We went last year and it was beautiful, but too crowded for Ricky to see much of anything.

On Three Kings day, people in Spain eat roscón de reyes (in Latin America, the same confection is known as rosca de reyes). It is a cake shaped like a ring, made of sweet bread dough, and covered with candied fruit. The shape dates back to Roman times, when people offered the god Janus cakes shaped like donuts. Inside the cake, there is a small toy hidden. It is lucky to be the one who gets the treat.

Bakeries all over Spain sell hundreds of roscones de reyes. Many people order them in advance, and they come in many sizes and qualities. Some roscones are filled with cream, marzipan or chocolate. I prefer the plain one (marzipan is good too).

So yesterday afternoon, we had some roscon with tea at my parents’ house. This particular roscon came from Hipercor, the supermarket at El Corte Ingles, an upscale department store. The roscon was a little dry, so I would not buy it there again.

Some friends of my parents came over for roscon. One of them was Ukrainian, and she told us that it was the Russian Orthodox Christmas yesterday. She brought Kutia, a Christmas orthodox dish for us to try.

Kutia is a traditional pudding served on Christmas Eve in eastern Europe. It is served in a single bowl, from which everyone takes spoonfuls and eats. It looks like a porridge with many things in it: wheat berries, cooked apple and prune, raisins, honey, cinnamon, poppy seeds and walnuts. I loved it and had quite a bit of it. I could eat this for breakfast several times a week.

Seriously, I’ll celebrate any holiday if there’s good food attached to it.

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