Sweet Diversity





English Article


A Christmas Paradox

I am intrigued by the paradoxes in human behavior -- history is full of them. One of the most delicious of these (in many senses of the word) is that the traditional cakes and confections that Spaniards enjoy each Christmas have their roots in the Moorish culture of Spain. And why not - Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in Spain for over 700 years.

The Biblical staples of almonds and honey are at the core of the cuisine of the Middle East. To this day honey is a major focus of commerce in that region. The Moors brought the almond tree with them to Spain. Most Christmas confections enjoyed in Spain -- whether it is turrón from Alicante; marzipan from Toledo; or polvorones and roscones from Cordoba  - all are made of almonds or honey. See full english article...

Spanish Article


A Christmas Paradox

Estoy intrigado por las paradojas del comportamiento humano; la historia está llena de ellas. Una de las más deliciosas (en muchos sentidos de la palabra) es que la bollería y pastelería tradicional que los españoles disfrutan cada Navidad tengan sus raíces en la cultura mora de España. ¿Y por qué no? Los cristianos, musulmanes y judíos vivieron juntos en España durante más de 700 años.

Los productos omnipresentes en la Biblia, las almendras y la miel, están en el corazón de la cocina del Oriente Medio. Hasta hoy, la miel es un artículo principal del comercio de la región. Los moros trajeron el almendro con ellos a España. La mayor parte de la pastelería de Navidad que se toma en España - ya sea turrón de Alicante; mazapán de Toledo; o roscones de Córdoba, se hacen con almendras o miel. See full spanish article...

Discussion Questions


  1. The Iberian Peninsula has seen many settlements from people of diverse religions and ethnicities. How is celebrating Christmas with a traditionally Muslim candy, a paradox?
  2. Who are the Moors and what religion did they practice?
  3. Why would the Moors have brought cuisine from the Middle East to Spain?
  4. When Don and his wife, Ruth visited the town of Estapa, they discovered why their advance orders for Turrón had not been completed. Explain.
  5. What are the key ingredients in the following sweets: Turrón, Polvorones, Roscones, Alfajores.
  6. Why was Don told it would not be possible to ship Mazapan to La Tienda in America?

Extension Activity


What sorts of fresh foods that are only available locally do you eat? Is eating foods that are free of preservatives and locally grown important to you? Why or why not?

Try some turrón and other sweets from Spain. Which is your favorite and why?

Links (will open the LaTienda.com site in a new window)