A GROSS NAME FOR A DELICIOUS CONFECTION
Any visitor or resident of San Miguel will notice signs on many shops around Centro touting the sale of a regional sweet, with the strange name of pedos de monja—nun’s farts. What?? How could virginal flatulence have turned into a sweet treat? And of course, what could it possibly smell like?
If you have never had these, please try them. They truly are delicious—perfect as an after-dinner treat, or any time of the day whenever your mouth craves something sweet and melty. Now that you’ve been sold on the taste, let’s talk about the strange name.
There is no historical document explaining the origin of the term. What we have are stories passed down through the generations, and even these are all over the place. One of them is that the original, small merengue-like pastries were made in convents, and they were crunchy, thereby creating a sound that someone thought was like the gentle passing of gas…or a sigh. Because they also have been called suspiros de monja—nun’s sighs.
But there is a more popular origin story, the one that is more or less the official story of the name in Mexico. In the 1800s there was an Italian baker in Barcelona who began making these confections; he called them petto di monaca—nun’s breasts, in Italian. The shape of the confection explains its original name. The Catalonians, however, had difficulty with the pronunciation, and the double “t” in petto took on the sound of the letter “d” instead. Eventually the recipe and the confection’s altered name was brought by Spaniards to the New World.
Pedos de monja can be found not only in Mexico, they are a delicacy in Quito, Ecuador, as well. But in Mexico they were transformed, even though they kept the original name. At the artisanal chocolate shop called El Palacio del Chocolate, in the city of Queretaro, they decided to create them as round balls of milk chocolate and bathe them in a dark chocolate. The treat, begun in 2009, is now specifically associated with the Bajio region. It is much closer to a truffle, both in taste and shape.
But it still considers itself part of the tradition born in Spain in the 19th century; the original sweet biscuit created and named by the Catalonian-Italian baker.
The milk chocolate confection with a chocolate filling came with the motto, “Mas vale adentro que afuera”—better in than out! This saying, by the way, is the reverse of something from 2001 movie Shrek, in which the main character’s beloved Fiona burps at the table, and Shrek excuses it by saying: “Better out than in!”
The pedos de monja of Queretaro, are not the only Spanish delicacies indelicately named for female body parts. In the state of Burgos there is one called tetillas de monja—nun’s little breasts; and in the southern region of Murcia, Spain, there is a pastry called chochitos—referring to a southern portion of the female anatomy!
Now go and enjoy your pedos!!!