My quest for ‘nun cookies’ first started in Madrid, where K and I spent a few hours trying to find the hidden convent where cloistered nuns sell home-made sweets to the public through a turntable. We were out of luck – once we managed to find the convent, there was a sign posted on the door announcing that they were sold out and wouldn’t have more sweets for a few days.
Imagine my delight when we stumbled across a nondescript sign next to the Convento de San Bernardo on Granada’s famous Carrera del Darro, pointing up the small alleyway of Calle Gloria, stating “sweet sales”. Heading to number 2 Calle Gloria, we then saw this sign posted next to the doorway – vente de patisseries, sweets sale.
Finally, I was going to get my nun cookies! But first, I wanted to make sure that I was ordering the right thing, and luckily they had information pinned up on the door of the sales turntable. For the record, you can buy (in any quantity you want):
- Rosquitos de anis (10 Euro/kilo)
- Pastas de almendra (12 Euro/kilo)
- Pasta de the (12 Euro/kilo)
- Hojaldrines (10 Euro/kilo)
- Nevaditas (16 Euro/kilo)
- Plum cake (4.60 Euro per unit)
Or, if you’re not sure about any of the above, you can do what we did and just buy the ‘Cajas surtidas’, or a mixed assortment. A half kilo will set you back 6.50 Euro, or a full kilo will set you back 13 Euro. They also sell home-made wines, but I decided to give that a miss!
To order your cookies, you need to:
- Ring the nearby bell, and wait for an answer
- When someone answers, say “Quiero comprar dulces” (I want to buy candy)
- Wait until a Sister comes to the turntable and tell her what you want
This is the interesting part – while the Sisters are supposed to cloistered and you’re not supposed to see them, the Sister who came to the turntable for me was very interested in opening up a little window to see who I was, and what I wanted. I’ve been told that they won’t do that if it’s a man who’s buying the candy, but as I was the one buying (K made sure to wait outside so there wouldn’t be any awkward situations), I think the Sister wanted to see who was speaking Spanish so terribly!
After I put in my order (half a kilo of assorted candy/cookies), the Sister went away briefly to pack up my order before putting it through the turntable for me. The box was marked with the title the Monastero de San Bernardo, rather than Convento de San Bernardo, as I believe that the monks and the nuns live in the same set of buildings, but separated.
And here we have the assorted cookies! K particularly liked the anise-flavoured cookies, but I liked the powdered-sugar hojaldrines which was particularly delicious with its layers of pastry.
There’s may be some ethical issues at play here – K asked me whether I was comfortable spending money towards the Catholic Church when we’re both staunch atheists. It did make me stop and think, and I decided that I could be comfortable with it as the money went towards the expenses of cloistered nuns, as opposed to directly to the coffers of the Catholic Church with the aim of spreading religious beliefs.
So there you have it – unique Spanish treats, made for you by (not quite) cloistered nuns! If you miss out on the nun cookies in a big city like Madrid, you can always go to Granada for them instead.
The Convento de San Bernardo is located at 2 Calle Gloria, Granada.