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How sushi power sustains a Carmelite monastery

monasterio carmelita granada

Courtesy of Mucar Carmelitas Granada

Merche Crespo - published on 11/22/23

During the months when their traditional sweets don't sell, these cloistered nuns are selling Asian food prepared by five Filipino members of their community, with great success.

A few months ago, the Carmelite nuns of the Realejo in Granada, Spain, introduced Asian food — including sushi — into the food they sell in the monastery’s dining room upon request. This new way of financing the community is proving to be a great success.

After years of making sweets, pastries, and jams in their kitchens, the Carmelite Sisters of the Monastery of the Incarnation decided in August to give a twist to their menus and introduce more exotic ingredients.

The prioress, Sr. Maria Dolores, spoke to Aleteia and told us the reason for the change.  “We’ve been making sweets for many years, but there are some months when we sell almost nothing, from June to September,” she explained.

Five Filipino sisters

So, taking advantage of the summer months when sales drop considerably, they thought about what else they could offer. Relying on the culinary skills of five Filipino sisters, they decided to make a radical change in the convent’s culinary offerings and opt for Asian food.

Noodles, chicken with vegetables, and the famous nori seaweed rolls are now part of the regular menu offered under the name of “Mucar’s Kitchen” (“Mucar” is the name of the monastery’s museum). The sisters receive orders via Whatsapp and email. Sr. María Dolores recalls that “we started that experience, to see how it would go for us.”

Adapting to new things

Two months after the initiative started, the customers who pass through the convent’s door are surprised by the sisters’ good work and the quality of the food. The sushi stands out above all.

“Thank God, it’s going very well,” Sr. María Dolores says. “It’s true that in the beginning there were many unforeseen situations, especially regarding the quantities when buying supplies or preparing the containers, but as the days go by we’re fine-tuning it,” she says.   

The Prioress assures us that “as when beginning any new kind of work, we have to move ahead, and there will be unforeseen situations. And although we’ve had to alter the convent’s schedule a little, nothing has had to be canceled. It’s all a matter of organization.”

Going viral

At the end of October, several Spanish national television channels including Tele5 and Canal Sur visited the convent. They wanted to learn more about this new gastronomic offering, which is quite unusual in a community that preserves centuries-old customs and products.

The news quickly went viral and some chefs and hotel businessmen shared the information. The Spanish edition of the Masterchef TV program even proposed that one of the Filipino sisters participate in the culinary contest. 

Obviously, Sister Maria Dolores explained to those in charge of the program that they are cloistered nuns and cannot go.

Guided tours and tasting

Monasterio carmelita granada
One of the guided tours and food tasting events organized by the monastery

In addition, the sisters have recently begun to offer what they call a “cultural-gastronomic experience” which they have named New Spaces, New Times.

These are guided visits to their monastery where the common themes are the nuns’ gastronomy and their way of life over the centuries. After getting to know the monastery’s spaces, visitors can taste typical Philippine food prepared by the sisters.

Reinventing themselves

Monasterio carmelita granda
Dulces elaborados por las hermanas carmelitas

These sisters are demonstrating their ability to reinvent themselves and adapt to the times without renouncing their traditions or prayer life. Heritage, history, and sushi now go hand in hand in their convent. 

FoodNunsReligious Life
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