2011 Portuguese Festas – Sopas and persimmon liquor
During the next few weeks the Portuguese celebrate the Festa of the Holy Spirit.
There are parades and Portuguese food like filhos (donuts), massa sovada (sweet bread) and sopa do Espírito Santo … a beef and bread soup that is served for free to everyone who attends.
The festas date back to 1296 when Queen Elizabeth saved the Portuguese from starvation during a famine. At Pentecost when food-laden ships were forced to land in Portugal because of a severe storm, she sold her gold and jewels to feed the people.
The Portuguese continue to celebrate this miracle which is credited to the Holy Spirit.
More on Portuguese festas in this post on the General
St. John the Baptist Catholic church had one festa after the 11 am mass on Sunday. Young girls dressed as queens and princesses marched in a procession to and from the Church.
There will be another festa this coming Sunday at St. John’s hosted by another Portuguese organization. Sunday’s even was almost identical to my 2009 post
El Cerrito - Where's the beef? Well, 2000 lbs of it was at the Portuguese Festa at St. John's
This year I sat near the kitchen to view a little of the action. The huge pots of boiled beef are started the day before. The stock is poured out just before the meal. The beef is cut up and served in separate pans. Large metal bowls are filled with thick slices of bread and the soup is ladled over it.
Each table has enough for three generous servings, but this is soul and stomach-filling fare. Most people quit after the second serving and there are always lots of leftovers. God bless the queen.
The sopas are free. Beverages, linguica and sweet bread are available for purchase.
The bread was from Silva bakery in Hayward. I’m not sure what brand of linguica was used, but the $3.50 sandwiches had been made ahead of time and kept warm in the oven which turned the rolls hard. No Portuguese donuts, only regular American donuts were available.
There is an auction after the meal with members donating baked goods, wine, produce, plants and a few other items. There were some nice bunches of rhubarb from someone’s garden and some good-looking flats of potatoes and onions.
One man from Lincoln, CA donated bottles of his homemade wine, blackberry liquor and persimmon liquor. Unfortunately, cash only, so I wasn’t prepared. I would have liked a bottle of that golden home-made persimmon liquor that sold for $20.
The plants included baby fig trees, loquat trees and some trees bearing Portuguese fruit that I’ve never heard of before.
The sopas as usual, were great and filling. Paired with a Portuguese Sagres beer or a carafe of Carlo Rossi wine, it made for a satisfying and festive meal. Sagres is to beer as Carlo Rossi is to wine. It is a light beer that maybe is marginally more bitter than Bud or any beer in that category.
Maybe there has been a change since Heineken bought the company in 2008.
As mentioned, Portuguese festas will be held all over California during the next few weeks. Look for one near you.
Has anyone else attended a festa this year?
Flickr photo stream
St John the Baptist Catholic Church
11150 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA
Had some delicious sopas last month near Fresno (Easton). One of my family members is a Portuguese caterer and Sopa-Chef so I'm totally biased on which festa offers the best sopas and food in general.
Festas continue on until the Monday after Labor Day. Gustine is the last one of the season and one of the biggest. Pismo is another biggie August 12-14.
If you're going to a festa for the first time, also look out for tremoços (cooked & brined lupini beans). They are great to snack on while waiting in line (as kids we loved this) or drinking beer (for adults). Don't eat the outer skin though! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupin_bean )