Thursday, 11 November 2010

Autumn Festivites

Today is November 11th...

Dia de S.Martinho, as its called here in Portugal or St. Martin’s Day, also known as the Feast of St. Martin. 
It is a day celebrated by drinking, and eating Chestnuts..
AKA the best day ever!
Saint Martin, was a Roman soldier, who later became a monk. The most famous legend is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold.
Across Europe people celebrate this day and here in Portugal the day is commonly associated with the celebration of the maturation of the year’s wine, traditionally the first day when the new wine is tasted. It is celebrated around a bonfire, eating the magusto, chestunuts roasted under the embers of the bonfire (sometimes dry figs and walnuts also), and drinking a local alcoholic beverage called água-pé (literally “foot water”), by adding water to the remaining grape bits (pomace) once they have been pressed for wine.

Typical venders take to the streets, selling freshly roasted chestnuts, served in paper cones, 

... yummy and soft, still warm.

Last weekend we went to Golegã.
A small town, about an hour away from Lisbon. Every year in November, to also celebrate St. Martinho's day, they hold a horse fair. 
THE GOLEGÃ NATIONAL HORSE FAIR, was originally also called "São Martinho" (St. Martin Fair), until later being replaced with its official name "Feira Nacional do Cavalo" (National Horse Fair).
The "Feira Nacional do Cavalo" is considered one the most important events of it's kind in Ribatejo and in Portugal.
You can find many horse lovers and breeders with beautiful specimens of the genuine Lusitanian Horse, the famous Portuguese breed. These Horses are exhibited in Golegã, and sold all over the world from Japan to South America.
Golegã is also called “The Capital of Horse” and it’s visited yearly by thousands of tourists and horse dealers. People come to Golegã from all over the world, enjoying not only the horses exhibited, but also the local cuisine, Portuguese wine and night events.

The streets were filled with people visiting for a chance to see the horses, and to enjoy all the wonderful, amazing food on offer. Seriously, i was drooling as we walked through the streets.

There was so much succulent meat being grilled, the smell was amazing! We arrived earlier to eat dinner there.. and then a few hours later, we ate dinner again!! Any excuse really...

This man was so proud of his meat, he was especially caught up in this wonderful atmosphere and was the epitome of the warmth of the people here, their generosity and their love of very good, cheap food.

And although i dont eat meat. I know.

I seriously could of taken a bite from one of these presunto sandwiches (Sandes).

Or a bite of chorizo...

Meat heaven all round.

Portugal also has a zillion cakes. I'm not joking. When i first visited Lisbon before moving here, everyday was a discover of another local cake, that i had to try. 

Well ok then a small taste...

And at the fair, they were just showing off by putting them all out in front of you. Not fare at all.

 And drool more...

Here is one of my favourites, a hard brittle, topped with peanuts.
And the brown sponge cake, with honey and cinnamon.

The many small domed looking macaroons, are similar to the French version, made with egg whites and sugar.

If in doubt, and you're not sure what's in a certain Portuguese cake/sweet. I guarantee it includes, eggs, extra egg yolks for sweetness and a hell of a lot of sugar. I think all the fish they eat here is a way of compensating for this?


I know alot of people visit Portugal, and travel abroad during the summer, seeking the hot weather, beaches and local cuisine. But now i live here, and i see the vast array of all year round gourmet experiences, i would definitely hunt around for holiday places to visit outside of the summer months. Generally the places are quieter, cheaper out of season, and there is a true sense of local life and spirit.

When ive visited places during the summer time, i felt that alot of the street fairs and open air restaurants were put there on show, they entice you into thinking thats how they live everyday, and that you must experience this to truly feel like you are in Spain/France/Italy.

But when i visit somewhere, i really only want to see locals, see and taste what they do everyday and enjoy what it's like living in their part of the world for a few weeks. 

To me that's being away, that's forgetting all your things at home, and truly living in the moment there and then. 

Happy Autumn!

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