Christmas is the time of year when the most turrón is consumed.
This confectionery, extraordinary both in flavour and in calorie content, which comes out of the woodwork just once a year, originates from Xixona, an inland Alicante province town known as the world capital of turrón.
WHEN Christmas comes, the media always seems to dig out the usual article on turrón. This has its logic, because it is round about this time that this foodstuff, extraordinary in both taste and calorie content, is eaten most.
Afterwards, we usually spend a turrón-free year – that is, neither eating it nor reading about it in the papers.
In any case, our annual date with turrón is enough for anyone to pass an exam in the subject with flying colours.
But we’d fail miserably if we were asked to reveal all you’d ever want to know about turrón and never dared ask, or never really been that interested in, as Woody Allen once said.
It is also true that there are many more questions that we wouldn’t be able to answer than those that we would, in fact, be able to answer.
I’ve never been able to break free of this constant questioning, this desire to get to the essence of things, and in this case it goes something like this: why does turrón take on the shape of a solid slab and not that of a fairy cake, for example? Is there anyone who could give a convincing answer to that question? Is it just a matter of pure chance?
Some reader out there is probably thinking that this question is just stupid, and another has probably reached a clear, definitive answer ages ago. Well, let’s hear it, then! Answers on the usual postcard to the editorial team, please, and we’ll let the rest of the readership know.
It intrigues me a great deal – and I suppose it’ll be looked into one day – why you see a shoe-shop in a given city and then round the next corner, or even right next door, you see one after another, until you finally lose count.
And when I say shoe-shop, I really mean any type of commercial establishment. Is it about imitation, healthy competition, or just that numerous premises were built that way, for the same purpose?
Why is it, then, that Jijona (Xixona in valenciano) is the world capital of turrón, even though this product is also made in other countries?
We’re talking about a town with a population of around 7,500 at most. Of course, the first-ever factory was here, and later – a few weeks or months or years on – there was a second, then a third... and thus it came to pass that Xixona is now just one giant turrón factory, some of the brands of which are advertised on commercial breaks on mainstream TV channels.
Why did turrón-production come about in Xixona and not in any other town? Because it had to start somewhere, a bored reader would say, who has little desire to know all that we would want to know about turrón but never dared ask or really been that interested in.
On the other hand, the answer might be: set off for Xixona and find out for yourselves and at your own risk. But do it next month, in January, when the almond blossoms are in flower, even if by then the factories have shut down or gone into holiday mode.
Take my advice and go to Xixona via the main road from Alcoi passing Puerto de la Carrasqueta (about 1,300 metres). As you wend your way down you’ll gradually find yourself surrounded by that angelic sweetness that the almond flower possesses.
And, of course, and even if it’s not the right time of year, buy some turrones, the best you can find. Oh, and don’t forget to try that traditional relic of Xixona’s cuisine, the 'giraboix', a tasty combination of cod, potatoes and green beans.
As most of you are intelligent people, I don’t doubt you will find the answers to many questions about turrón that you’ve never dared to ask and which never appear in the annual newspaper articles. Good luck!
Turrón and turrones
A thick, sweet mass obtained by cooking honey, sugar and egg-white with toasted and peeled almonds. It is later kneaded together and moulded into its usual slab-shape.
Basically, there are two typical types of turrón: the Xixona variety and the Alicante variety – the soft and the hard in everyday speak, because the first is made with crushed almonds and the other with whole ones.
In addition, there are numerous other spin-off varieties, like turrón made from egg-yolk, or toasted egg-yolk, or coconut, and more besides.