While you might have heard about the most typical Spanish Christmas foods, I want to focus on a relatively unknown Christmas sweet: the alfajor, consumed generally in the south of Spain, and definitely a high point in humanity’s culinary achievements.
An alfajor is a very special sweet, made mostly out of honey, nuts, and spices. How can I explain the experience of having one? When you try it, the first thing you notice is the sugar coating. But before you know it, you’ll find yourself deep into the slightly hard, consistent texture, which will then merge into an explosive combination of hazelnut, almond, and honey, with cilantro and cinnamon giving a final special touch to an absolutely glorious flavour. The concepts of majesty, beauty, and grandeur are all condensed into one small sweet.
There is something I have always found really peculiar about this sweet. The name, Alfajor, comes from the Spanish-Arab al-hasú, which essentially means “the filling”. This is because the recipe comes from an Arab tradition, dating back to the times of Muslim Spain in the Middle Ages. And yet it has somehow found its way into becoming a staple of a predominantly Christian celebration. If you’re one of those jolly lefties that can’t stand this new notion of “cultural appropriation”, just keep in mind that we in Spain have been casually doing it for the best part of a thousand years.