I ate it up and spit it out

My mum is in Spain. She's come with her pal Sheila to see the Easter parades in Cartagena.

Easter is a big thing in Spain. All over the country during Easter Week, or Semana Santa, people wear costumes that were the inspiration for the Klu Klux Klan. Big pointed hats and long robes mask the vanity of their wearers; costumes that prove penitence. Lots of people walk barefoot. Big floats or "tronos", heavy wooden constructions topped with life sized wooden carvings depicting Biblical scenes are carried here and there.

Watching the processions is a spectator sport. Find yourself a tight corner where the carriers have to work hard to manoeuvre their tronos. Whether you pay for one of the street side chairs, reserve your table at a bar along the route or just bag some pavement space you get to pass judgement on the handling of the tronos.

Whenever there is any sort of street event in Spain there will be street vendors and their barrows. The most typical fiesta barrows are loaded with popcorn type snacks and toys. The majority trail a cloud of helium filled dolphins and Sponge Bobs as they work the waiting crowd. Today though there seemed to be an unusually large number of "two bags for one euro" pipa sellers.

Pipas are toasted and salted sunflower seeds. I read the other day that they were introduced into Spain in 1937, during the Civil War, when food was so scarce in Madrid that even the pretend, chicory flavoured "coffee" had dried up. The people who come from Madrid, Madrileños, picked up the habit from the Soviet tank drivers of chewing on sunflower seeds to still their hunger. It's a habit that has stuck with Spaniards ever since.

At any outdoor event in Spain - rock concert, religious parade or sporting event - you will  hear the crunch of the seeds between someone's teeth followed by the sound of the husk being spit out. As you make your way home the chances are you will, inadvertently, walk through a little mound of the discarded sunflower husks.

Business didn't seem that brisk to me but, as we waited for the parade to start, I took the picture of the family group used on this post. The red bags are all sunflower seeds.


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