«Mr. António produces honey», explained Alexandra Santos. "I do not! It's the bees that produce!», replied Sr. António, with a smile, holding a bottle of the his dark honey.
The scene took place this Sunday, the 26th, in the village of Giões, municipality of Alcoutim. It was another journey of the Forgotten Food Festival, in this case the activity “Spoon and Cook”, which led a group of two dozen people of various nationalities to discover this area, very close to the Vascão river, between the Algarve and Alentejo.
At Senhor António's house, the group went to get their “rosemary, eucalyptus and other flowers” honey, which they would later eat for lunch.
It all started in one of the village squares, where the participants ate almece, some for the first time in their lives. And what is almece? It is sheep or goat milk whey, a by-product of the manufacture of cheese and curd, which was used to be eaten in these areas of the interior of the Algarve and Alentejo in the morning, sweetened with honey, sugar and cinnamon or a little salty ( was the case), with bread crumbs inside.
«It was breakfast, when I was a child, here in these parts», explained one of the participants. Today, almece, even where it abounds, has been replaced by other things far less healthy. It is, therefore, a “forgotten food”.
To warm up, because it was cool on that Sunday, which dawned with sun and clouds after a few days of blessed rain, there was barley coffee.
Afterwards, the group continued on foot through the narrow streets of the small village, now inhabited mainly by the elderly, until reaching a stream, where the water was already flowing. “What a joy to see the river full of water,” said Ana Seixas Palma, from the organization of the Forgotten Food Festival.
There was still not much water, so some people crossed it at ford, while others passed through the fillies, made of cement in the riverbed. Nobody got wet, not even Alexandre, the smallest of the group, dressed in beautiful red wellies.
On the other side of the stream, with baskets and baskets in hand, the harvest of wild plants began, which would be used in salad (navel-de-venus, wild mustard) or in tea (macela).
Then, it was time to visit Senhor Jorge's herd of 300 Algarvian goats, one of the largest herds of this breed in the country. Participants watched the mechanical milking of the goats. From each of them, explained the lady who was taking care of the milking, "we take a liter, two liters, it depends".
From there, the group went to the house on the farm of Ana Paula, José and their children João and Gabriel. It was there, among hay bales, farm implements and many clucking chickens, that the group walked the hunt of eggs for lunch.
As Luísa explained, from the housing tourism Village corner, partner of the festival, «this is a family like there are few here. Everyone works, in addition to the younger ones studying. Parents are sheep breeders and traders». Gabriel, the youngest of the family, explained that what he likes to do most is “play with the dogs”. And there were from mutts in the Alentejo to border collies, all friendly with visitors.
After getting to know the chickens, dogs, sheep, pigs and goats, João and Gabriel went to show the two little goats, which had been born the day before. Everyone wanted to party on their little chibinhos and take pictures with them.
It was also in the case that the participants tried milking a goat, but by hand, in the traditional way. The experience went well for Brazilian nutritionist Ivani, who is at the University of Coimbra doing a PhD and came to the Algarve to get to know what this «forgotten food» is all about. Like a real professional, she quickly managed to extract the goat's milk. The animal, on the other hand, seemed startled by all the people around him, but accepted the thing without so much as a kick.
The breeder Ana Paula explained that she uses the milk of her goats to make fresh cheeses, just for family consumption. And fresh goat cheese would be part of the rich lunch menu. But it's too early to get to the table.
Then, in the family's vegetable garden, the participants went to dig up the earth, wash and eat tender carrots, but also pick coriander, tomatoes and lettuce, which have been preserved since autumn.
«The gardens, in winter, have little. Essentially there are sprouts, the fava beans are about to appear. This year, because there has been little rain, it is even worse», explained Alexandra Santos, from the organization.
The culinary work then began, in an outdoor space at Recanto d'Aldeia. Under the guidance of the young chef Daisy Vargues, the tasks were distributed: kneading to make rubbing cake (another almost forgotten food), peeling garlic and onions, breaking the bread, making the redwood salad with salt olives, cutting the sausages from the Zambujal, prepare and cook wild asparagus with eggs (which had the hand of a local expert), prepare the lettuce salad with the wild plants harvested.
The purple stick, actually a traditional, local-variety carrot that is purple and yellow inside and out, is still cultivated, but less and less. It is also a real (and delicious) “forgotten food”. Not far from Giões, in Castro Verde, on the 20th of January, the Pau Roxo fair is still held, but this year there was a small amount of these tubers that were sold there. The lack of rain delayed the gardens...
Next to the participants, who were busy with the work they were given, was chef Margarida Vargues, who, in a huge pot, was preparing a lamb stew, which would prove to be delicious.
Halfway through the preparation of lunch, the field at the back was crossed by Senhor Jorge's herd, with the chimes echoing in the valley. That Sunday, the goats went out later to graze, because of the visitors, and they seemed to be in a hurry to find the green grass that had already sprouted.
Then it was time to sit down at the table, to share and enjoy what had been made by everyone. The meal ended with a cake made with bread dough and honey (from Martinlongo), rubbing cakes, delicious donuts from Café do Poço Novo, in Giões, and a toast with fennel liqueur made by our hostess Luísa, from Recanto d 'Village.
To close, the group photo, in charge of the photographer Victor Pina.
The next edition of Spoon and Cook will be on February 23, in Maria Vinagre, Aljezur. The alcagoitas that are produced there are certainly one of the “forgotten foods” that will appear on the menu. Tickets can be purchased. by clicking here. And it's good for those interested to hurry up, because groups are small and tickets tend to fly.
Afterwards, the festival's Picnics of Charm will return: on the 28th of March it will be in the village of the penina, at the foot of Rocha da Pena, in the interior of Loulé, while April 18th will be in Saint Stephen's village, in the interior of Tavira.
The Forgotten Food Festival is organized by QRER - Coop. for the Judge of Low Density Territoriesand, with the support of the 365Algarve, from the Loulé and Tavira Chambers, from Vila Vita Parc, from the TASA Project and ProActiveTur. The tourist partner is the Baroque – cultural and tourist products.
Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação and 365Algarve (when identified)