“Quieres algo mas?” The small voice whispered to me, from behind the lazy Susan dispenser of the holy cookies. “No, gracias, todo bien! Muchisimas gracias. Gracias por todo. Gracias. Hasta luego. Gracias.” My profusely polite farewell was an attempt to overcompensate for the fact that my greeting to the nun cookie seller had been, “Que tal?” which is the equivalent of saying, “WAZZUP” to a Sister. Yikes.
After my over the top goodbye, I was on my way, with the cookies from God in my hand.
One of my favorite things to do in Madrid is visit the “cookie” nuns. Hidden in one of the most touristic parts of the Spanish capital, this secret gem of a spot offers up some of the most delicious treats for those who know how to get there.
The spot is located on Calle del Codo. Yes, for those of you that are Spanish speakers, you got that translation right: “Elbow Street.” Just above the elbow, there is a doorway. The buzzer is labeled “Monjas”, or Nuns, and “Sacerdotes”, or Priests. For access to the sweets, ring the “Monjas” button. The ladies take a little while to respond to the buzzer, but don’t worry, they heard you. Eventually, a heavenly voice will answer. You better come with a Spanish friend though, because these nuns speak the Mother Tongue of Madrid. English? Que?
After they let you into their home, walk all the way back to the end of the hallway, passing through several outdoor patios. There are no arrows. Just let your cookie senses guide the way.
When you get to the end of the hallway, the nun will hear you arrive. San Geronimo nuns don’t show their faces, but they are some of the sweetest faceless voices I have ever talked to, and they tolerate my “unique” Spanish abilities. You are separated from them by a brown “Lazy Susan” which functions as a spinning wall to allow the nuns to hand over the cookies and for the customer to give the payment, without the nuns ever having to show their faces to the customers. On the wall to the right of the Lazy Susan is the pricing of the cookies. While the plain galletas, or cookies, go for 7 euro per ½ kilo (that’s the standard size box), the most expensive treats go for 10 euro, with most going for around 9 euro. Some days the cookies on the list aren’t made, but today was my lucky day as all of the cookies were freshly made and available for purchase. Winning.
As I became impatient, the nun decided I was either an idiot or completely clueless about what each of these cookies had in them. So she told me in her demurely polite voice, “Espera un momento” and suddenly, the lazy Susan started moving. One cubbyhole in the Lazy Susan was empty, but it kept spinning around. The next cubbyhole had a plethora of delicious treats. She told me to take the ones I wanted, read the name off the box so she could then tell me how much I owed her, and then I had to place the money in the cubbyhole. She spun the lazy Susan back around, and as it kept spinning, suddenly the cookies were gone and my change sat in one of the cubbies.
It was truly a magical experience. It felt like a “step back in time” experience where nuns hid behind walls, out of sight from the rest of the community. It was a time before Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, where people couldn’t just sit behind computers and order delivery food. While the holy cookies may have come with a bit of a price tag (Oreos certainly don’t cost 10 euro per box), they were worth every penny.
COOKIE RECOMMENDATION: I choose the Nevaditos for 9 euors, and they were pretty delicious. While the white powder made for a bit of a mess all over my black pea coat as I scarfed a couple of the cookies as I left the nunnery, the cookies were baked to perfection and it hit the spot in the sweet tooth department. However, the nun – ever the perfect saleslady – believed that all the sweets were pretty good selections. Worried I would choose the wrong cookie, I asked her in Spanish, “But which one is THE BEST?!” to which she calmly responded, “I would say they are all quite delicious.” So there you have it folks, it’s a win-win situation.