The public escudella stews made on Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià are an Andorran tradition that typically bring many people together. Due to COVID-19, however, this year they will be cancelled or celebrated in a different way.
The origin of this tradition is twofold: to offer something to the poor, and as respite against the winter weather, as the two dates fall within the Setmana dels Barbuts, or “Week of the Bearded”, which common knowledge tells us is the coldest time of the year. Many generations of this experience and the local Christian culture have given rise to this association between the climate and the bearded saints.
The escudella is a hearty meal comprising vegetables, potatoes, chickpeas and beans, noodles, beef and pork, black and white sausage, meatballs and chicken. This is all prepared with dedication and patience over hours of cooking: the pots start boiling at dawn in the squares of Andorra la Vella, Escaldes-Engordany, La Massana and Sant Julià de Lòria so that it’s all ready by midday. Thus, despite the cold, the stew is made, served, and eaten in the street!
This tradition is complemented by the Encants auctions – also affected by COVID-19 restrictions this year – of lots of local products, such as baked goods and sausages provided by shops and other entities and institutions, with the funds collected donated to charitable causes. On Sant Antoni (17 January) the public escudella would be celebrated in La Massana, Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany, on the Sunday closest to 17 January it would be made in Canillo and Encamp, while in Sant Julià de Lòria it would take place on 20 January, the feast of Sant Sebastià.
These traditions, re-established now for more than 50 years, offer another side to Andorra, perhaps little known. Here’s hoping that the situation will be different next year, and that once again we’ll be able to enjoy this traditional culinary feast!
*This picture belongs to Andorra Turisme