As in the rest of Catalonia, in every corner of the Costa Brava and the Girona Pyrenees, autumn tastes of chestnuts and panellets (little round marzipan cakes). These two products provide the flavour in Catalan gastronomic culture when autumn brings vibrant red and yellow hues to forests and the days draw in and get chillier.
Curiously, the origin of the popular castanyada (chestnut festival) can be found in ancient Celtic burial rituals. It is celebrated in the run-up to All Saints' Day and is associated with the castanyera, a jolly old lady who would sell her freshly roasted chestnuts to passers-by in the street, served piping hot in paper cones. Dressed in warm clothing with a long skirt and a headscarf wrapped tightly around her head, she used a cup-shaped stove to roast the chestnuts. That's why in Girona the site occupied by the chestnut sellers during the Sant Narcís Fair and Festival is now called La Copa.
Although we don't see so many street sellers of roasted chestnuts today, you can still find lots of stalls where chestnuts are served nice and hot to warm you up as you walk. It’s also typical to accompany chestnuts and baked sweet potato with muscatel or other sweet liqueurs.
This is also the time of year when we gorge on panellets. These are little home-made cakes that contain almond, sugar, egg yolks and potato or sweet potato, eaten as desserts on All Saints' Day. It's a living tradition, celebrated in schools and homes up and down the country. In cake and pastry shops you can also find a huge selection, from the classic pine nut variety to newer flavours such as chocolate, coconut, orange, lemon and many others.