Catalonia's Xuixo Pastry Was Named After A Sneeze

According to MasterClass, there are basically five broad categories of pastry dough: Choux, flaky, filo, puff, and shortcrust. These broad groupings, however, produce a seemingly infinite variety of delicious pastries, representing virtually every culinary tradition and corner of the globe.

Some pastries are notable for their unusual names. The Spanish region of Catalonia, in particular, boasts several pastries with uncommonly strange names. Orelletes, for example, are named after ears, notes TasteAtlas. Given their shape, the name definitely fits. Some might also find it curious that the dough for orelletes includes not only flour and eggs but also olive oil and anisette.

Catalonia's most famous pastry, however, is notable not just for its unusual name (xuixo) but also for its unusual backstory. As ShBarcelona confirms, xuixo was born in the Catalan city of Girona, where it received its distinctive moniker from an involuntary bodily function: That's right, a sneeze. If you think that's weird, wait until you hear about the acrobat.

The story behind xuixo's strange name

Xuixo in Catalan is pronounced like shoo-shoo, according to Atlas Obscura, which is appropriate since it's quite close to achoo, the word commonly used in English to express the sound a sneeze makes. How did a pastry get named after a violent nasal expulsion? 

As the story goes, the name xuixo came about as the result of the amorous exploits of an acrobat named el Tarlà, who had been entertaining the citizenry of Girona during a plague-ridden pandemic. Although it was a dark period in the city's history, Tarlà nevertheless became lovestruck, falling for a local girl whose father was a pastry chef.

Perhaps as the result of an ill-timed rendezvous, Tarlà was forced to hide in the chef's kitchen. The chef, flour in hand, was about to whip up one of his signature creations when Tarlà let loose with a sneeze. 

The resulting confrontation actually proved fortuitous, as a marriage was quickly agreed upon. Tarlà's sneeze also inspired the name of the chef's newly created pastry, which legend has was made from one of the acrobat's own recipes.

Despite being born from a sneeze, xuixos are, by all accounts, delicious. As History of EU notes, the pastries are deep fried, covered with sugar, and stuffed with tasty crema catalana (a custardy Spanish dessert similar to creme brûlée, according to Spanish Sabores).