You can tell when Christmas is coming here in Spain. The shops are filled with all the delights of the festive season. It used to happen at the beginning of December but we've noticed it has crept forward each year.
Although as you would expect, the toy shelves are crammed full, it is in the food section that Christmas really appears.
Along with a proliferation of cooked hams, you find all manner of sweet delights that are special for Christmas. Among these, the wide selection of polvorones and turrones are the most noticeable.
This year, the Regulating Council of Jijona and Turrón of Alicante are concerned that the economic crisis will hit the sales of the traditional favourite - turrón. Last year 8.4 million kilos of the nougat along with 6 million kilos of associate products were sold.
Forecasts show a drop in sales of between 5 and 7% of the confection, so the Council are launching a 700,000€ advertising campaign to try and promote sales. There will be adverts on the TVE channels, on Antenna and Tele 5.
The campaign is being funded by the companies who form the regulatory council and the Conselleria de Agricultura. Alongside this, the major producers: Antiu-Xixona, La Fama, 1880 y El Lobo, and Turrones Picó will be mounting their own campaigns.
For those of you who have never tried polvaron and turron:-
Polvorones are "dust biscuits". When you first try one and bite into it, you end up covered in fine sugary almond flavoured dust. Eating them brings the same problems you have with cream crackers - more than a couple and your mouth ends up as dry as a bone.
Turrón is nougat with a tradition which goes back 500 years. It comes in an assortment of styles in either soft or hard varieties. The hard stuff is jaw breaking - not good if you have loose fillings, false teeth or a bridge. The soft varieties are more manageable but are only palatable for those of you with a sweet tooth.
Our favourites are the honey coated toñas. These biscuits, which are very traditional in this area, are made with flour, oil, sugar and Anis Paloma (a bit like Pernod). Hmm que rico.