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Travel + Culture

Sisters are Baking it on Their Own


I finally did it. I had walked past the discreet sign noting "Venta de Dulces" ("Sweets for sale"), on Madrid's Calle del Codo for years, but something—okay, maybe it was my bat mitzvah—always kept me from pushing the buzzer. After all, this sweet shop was run, in that great Spanish tradition, by nuns. Cloistered nuns. The Madres Jerónimas del Corpus Christi, to be exact.

I had a moment's panic standing there at the great wooden door, for there were two buttons on the buzzer and neither said anything about cookies. Which to push, "monjas" or "sacerdotes"? I assumed it was the monjas (nuns) I wanted, but what if this were an equal opportunity bakery and the sacerdotes (priests) were back there with the butter and the sugar? It took a minute or so, but eventually a woman's voice came over the intercom and told me to follow the arrows. I pushed the heavy door as she buzzed me in and entered a silent courtyard. The arrow pointed me to the left, through another courtyard and down a short flight of stairs. I found myself facing a large lazy Susan, half covered by a dark wall. A voice came out of the darkness: "Today we have mantecados de Jerez and nevaditos." "What, no marzipan?" I wanted to complain, but I wasn't going to argue with a nun, especially one I couldn't see. I chose the nevaditos, a Spanish approximation of a Mexican wedding cookie.

The lazy Susan gave a turn, and my nevaditos, packed into a pastry box that was, in turn, stuffed into a plastic bag, appeared "6.50," came the disembodied voice. I put 7 euros down on the wheel and gave it a swirl. "Keep the change, sister," I said.