March 22nd, 2008

Let me see..

Sweet Passion

Forget chocolate eggs and jelly beans. The time-honored way to celebrate Easter in Madrid is with torrijas.

You might call it french toast, but in Madrid they don't, if only because of a lingering resentment of the French involving an invasion by Napoleon two hundred years ago. Instead they call it "little toasts," which is what torrijas means, although they're not little.

Here's the recipe: Take big, thick slices of day-old bread. Soak them for a few hours in sweetened milk (the most common variation), or sweet wine, or sugar water if you're too poor to afford milk (as was the case just after the Civil War). Dip them in beaten egg. Deep-fry them. Then sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar, and if you wish, put syrup on them, too.

Fattening? You bet. They plumped up Queen Isabel II (1843-1868). Her mistake was to eat them year-round.

Most people buy torrijas ready-made in bakeries for about 2.20€ (US$3) per slice, and about 3.5 million slices will be sold in Madrid during the holidays. Then, wisely, we'll have to wait for a year to enjoy them again.

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