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Design by Foix de Sarría
Foix - Mones
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Popular cartoon figures, such as Disney's Minnie Mouse make a regular appearance on chocolate mones.
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Foix de Sarrià
A more traditional hen-shaped mona.
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Chocolate trains and houses are other popular mones amongst children today
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In the lead-up to Easter, the bakeries and sweet shops of Catalunya are filled with mones
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Hello Kitty has become a popular mona option in recent times
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Local heroes! Barça supporters can really celebrate the success of their team with this huge chocolate trophy. With thanks to Foix de Sarrià (Major de Sarrià 57), Faixat Pastisser (Enric Granados 60) and L'Art del Pà (Provença).
In this modern age of scientific and technological efficiencies, there is something charmingly primitive about Easter being a moveable feast, held on the first Sunday after the paschal full moon. This year, Easter festivities begin on March 27th, after the abstinence of Lent. For many this is a spiritual occasion celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and fittingly marked with a religious service and prayers. For others, Easter rituals may include hysterical children hunting the chocolate trail of the Easter Bunny, self-deniers gorging themselves on items given up for the previous 40 days and in Catalunya, godparents giving godchildren their traditional mona de Pasqua.
Beginners in Catalan would be right in thinking that this festive treat can literally be translated as ‘Easter monkey’; however, the word ‘mona’ actually exists in both Latin and Arabic, where it means gift or present. Dating back to the 15th century, this culinary delight originally took the form of a tortell de brioix (round brioche cake) and was inspired by the days of fasting preceding Easter Sunday. During this Lent period, representing the time Jesus spent in the desert resisting temptation from Satan, Catholics were forbidden from eating meat and eggs. Instead, the eggs were collected to make celebratory cakes that would then be eaten to bring an end to the gastronomic abstinence. The traditional shape of these cakes was large and circular, similar to that of a sizeable doughnut and it would often contain hardboiled eggs around the edge. Nowadays hardboiled eggs have been replaced with chocolate ones and a mona de Pasqua can come in all manner of shapes and sizes.
Each year, pastisseries across the city plan their creations for months in advance of Easter, setting delicate moulds and eagerly working to put rival window displays of the finished products to shame. The chocolaty fruits of their labour are now droolingly clear to see, none more so than at the legendary Foix de Sarrià. The pastisseria is caked in history and in 2011 year celebrated its 125th anniversary. Amongst others, Spanish royalty have sampled goods from the shop, which belongs to the family of Surrealist poet and journalist Josep Vicenç Foix, who once ran it. The mones de Pasqua in the window range from the more traditional round cake to contemporary takes on the ancient Easter tradition. Movie stars, footballers, cartoon characters and your very own personalised mona are now all readily available upon request. Although the baking of a cake has gradually been replaced by a chocolate sculpture, there are still aspects of this annual indulgence that have not changed.
It has always been the custom for a godparent to give a mona de Pasqua to their godchild on Easter Sunday and this remains the same today. The number of eggs on a mona corresponds to the age of the godchild but unfortunately this ritual doesn’t continue into later life. No matter how much of a child you are, a mona will never have less than two or more than 12 eggs on it. More than simply a testament to age, the significance of the egg also has a deeper sacred meaning that shop assistant Albert Madern was eager to point out. “La mona de Pasqua is a spiritual tradition unique to Catalunya. Each egg represents a year of life but they also embody the idea of birth, which is why they are given on Easter Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead.”
Albert’s uncle, Jordi Madern, is the owner of Foix de Sarrià, while another uncle, Oriol Madern, is the pastelero in charge of constructing both the beautiful chocolate shapes and the traditional cakes. “There is no special ingredient needed to make them. Flour, sugar, eggs, they are all made of the same thing. The secret is in the imagination of the pastelero. It is his skill and inventiveness that will decide whether it is the perfect mona,” revealed Albert, unwilling to let any family secrets slip. A good thing too, because this 15th-century practice is showing little sign of fading.
Almost inevitably, the Easter tradition has become far more marketable in recent years, losing some of its religious meaning to popular culture influences. “What was once a Catholic tradition has become more commercialised and people care more about the amazing variations in colour and design as opposed to the original holy significance,” Albert admitted. However, this has arguably allowed the mona de Pasqua to develop and stay relevant to people today— annual competitions to judge the best and largest mones continue to draw media coverage.
“The mona de Pasqua definitely has a future. It’s more than a tradition, it’s a part of being Catalan,” explained Merche Baluda, assistant at the distinguished shop of Oriol Balaguer.
In the world of the chocolatier, Senyor Balaguer is not one to be messed with. He was named the ‘Best Pastry Chef in Spain’ in 2008 and at one stage held the enviable distinction of creating the ‘Best Dessert in the World’. The delicate creations in his store are more than just a sweet sensation; they have a class and sophistication about them that exude an aura of sumptuous luxury. Take a look at the window display and you are essentially gazing upon chocolate poetry. “Oriol and his team carefully design each mona and will make small changes and adjustments until they are completely satisfied,” explained Merche. That’s partly why one of the larger mones on display will set you back at least €100, not that that has stopped some famous Catalan faces from sampling these delights. Apparently even the health-conscious players of FC Barcelona find the work of Oriol Balaguer as irresistible as the next person.
Once the mones have been bought and formally handed over on Easter Sunday, there is one more night of waiting before consumption and general feasting can begin. Easter Monday in Catalunya is therefore commonly referred to as ‘el dia de la mona’ and in the past represented the day when families would come together to heartily eat and drink. A lunch of lamb, rabbit or rice dishes would usually be followed by a walk in the countryside where the children could spend the afternoon playing and (finally!) eating their mona de Pasqua. In the days of hardboiled eggs baked around the outside, the custom was to crack the eggs in front of another person before laying siege to the Easter cake.
Nowadays, the incredible designs and wonderfully edible sculptures make mones almost too good to eat—‘almost’ being the key word. Easter and feasting just seem to go hand in hand, so whether you’re having a traditional circular cake or a modern, life-size chocolate figure of Messi: happy eating and happy Easter.
Where to buy the best mones in town
Pastelería Bocí Via Augusta 112
Pastelería Natcha Avinguda Sarrià 45
Pastelería Escribà Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 546
Pastelería Foix de Sarrià Major de Sarrià 57
Pastelería Sacha Vallmajor 31
*This article was first published in 2012 and updated in 2016