Lent is a time of reflection and self sacrifice. In many Christian churches, particularly the oldest ones, there are rules concerning what should and should not be eaten on certain days. The rules are different from faith to faith, but the idea is the same. For those who practice it is believed that sacrifice brings one closer to understanding the meaning of Easter. And Holy Week is the most solemn period of time in all of Lent.
So what do Spaniards eat during those days when meat is forbidden or fasting is observed? What would most Spaniards respond if you asked them to name a food traditionally associated with Lent? They would name the Lenten loophole. And the loophole is called “La Torrija“.
Ahh – la torrija. Its components appear to we North Americans as the same in French toast. But there is nothing French about a torrija. It’s basic ingredients – day old bread, milk, egg and oil – are (once again) the stuff of a well stocked peasant larder. Add to it sugar, cinnamon and lemon rind, those ingredients which make the toast sing, and the angels weep. Sure there are variations on the theme. “Torrijas de pueblo” and “torrijas de vino” (substitute milk for wine and, as they say in Spain, “se te pondrá el ombligo azul¨.
For the last two years my family and I spent Holy Week in Madrid. Needless to say ¨me puse la botas¨ as they say in Spain, or had my fill, of torrijas. I usually make them at home, but those two years it was not necessary. I had the real deal! And I learned a couple of things:
- Much like snowflakes, no two torrijas are alike, and
- My torrijas are pretty darn good.
So with that said, I leave you to enjoy these photos of torrijas my family and I ate at three very different restaurants – the neighborhood “Lope de Vega Restaurant”, the classic, famous and revered “Café de Oriente¨, and the ultra-modern “Restaurante del Museo Reina Sofia”. Each torrija was quite different, some softer and some “juicier”, but all were absolutely delicious. It is good that even in this season of reflection and sacrifice we can still enjoy some of life’s greatest gifts. I think this also brings us closer to the meaning of Easter.