Are traditions still followed through in this day and age? Do our children know about the festivities and eating habits of our ancestors? With Carnival celebrated with all its pomp and glory in our tiny state I wondered if people around the globe believed in traditions too.
Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent and is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and to a lesser extent in Eastern Orthodox societies. The Protestants do not have the celebrations but modified traditions like the Shrove Tuesday event.
I decided to do some homework on some countries and traditions before coming back to our home state.
There seems to be two different explanations to the word ‘Carnival’. The first comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", while another possible explanation comes from the term ‘Carrus Navalis’ (ship cart), the name of the Roman festival of Isis.
In the Czech Republic, tradition calls for a pork feast before lent. In England they celebrate Shrove Tuesday. It is a time for confessing sins (shriving) and is celebrated as Pancake Tuesday. In Greece ‘Smoke Thursday’ is celebrated where celebrants enjoy Roast Beef dinners at Taverns and friends homes. This same ritual is repeated the following Sunday and the following week, the last before Lent is called Tyrine (cheese) week because meat is not allowed but dairy products are.
In Hungary, they spike doughnuts on weapons, in Italy especially at Ivrea, they celebrate it with the Battle of the Oranges. In Malta food eaten at the carnival includes perlini (multi-coloured, sugar-coated almonds) and the prinjolata, which is a towering assembly of sponge cake, biscuits, almonds and citrus fruits, topped with cream and pine nuts.
The Islands of the Azores, before Ash Wednesday, locals sit down for the "Batatada" or potato feast, in which the main dish is salted cod with potatoes, eggs, mint, bread and wine. While in Portugal Lazarim of Lamego the cycle encompasses two periods, the first starting on the fifth Sunday before Fat Sunday. The locals feast on a wide variety of meats, above all pork.
Well we all know that in Goa the three-day-long festival of music and dancing in the streets culminates in a parade on Fat Tuesday and then crowds follow their partying with a buffet dinner of Goan cuisine.
But what about the local homes? What is cooked there? We decided to spend some time with Chef Peter of O Coqueiro who has a special menu being prepared in his restaurant during this period. Pork Ard Mas, Samarachi Kodi with Boiled Rice and Para, Spiced Roast Pork, Beef Roullade and Roast Beef. ‘We are forgetting the traditions of the past,’ he says, ‘the Aard Mas used to be prepared on Vespers Day, the previous day of the feast and I request the butcher for those special cuts with the bone.’
I looked at the menu…at an item called “buch’. ‘Another forgotten preparation,’ he says, ‘but one I keep on the menu. Its tripe and the recipe is one that I learned from my grandmother. In the olden days, at around 10.00 am, it used to me our brunch with kanji.’
‘But what happens after Ash Wednesday, when meats are not permitted?’ I ask. He points to old favorites..Crab Xec-Xec, Teesroi Sukhe… ‘In the past Lent was observed for a period of 45 days while for five Sundays we were allowed to eat. Fish like Lepo, Kochudde, Talle, Kubhe… I am a strong believer of old traditions…so with advance intimation I could also prepare Tambdi Bhaji(Red Spinach), Osande Sukhe(Lentils) or even the vegetables made with Turnip and white Radish as in the past.’
By now our table was laden with all the specialties which very few restaurants display on their menu. As we chewed on the Aard Maas…the fat around the bone adds to the flavour we were told, and the soft succulent roast beef…melting moments, the Teesroi Sukhe oo..la…la, Peter informed us about a traditional dessert his grandmother would prepare at home .’Godshem’, a sweet of doodhi and sweet potatoes prepared in an earthenware pot, which would ooze out a gelatin overnight and keep it fresh. While listening to these traditions, I saw Joe heap his plate with rice ‘Ukdia tandul’, samarachi kodi and para. I let him go ahead. He always said that his mother made the best. We stopped talking as we watched him spoon mouthful and mouthful into his mouth. The dish had passed the test.
So here are some local traditions brought to the fore at O Coqueiro….these are some things that are never to be forgotten.