I was lucky enough to head to the Algarve two weeks ago as the UK nights began to close in. The weather in the Algarve was still hot enough for Summer wear with a light sweater in the evenings. I was staying as a guest of the Vila Vita Parc and they organised a few days out for us. On the first day we drove up into the hills of the Algarve to a beautiful building which used to be an old primary school that closed down due to insufficient numbers of children in the area.
Lots of the school classroom was still intact with the old blackboard still up and tiny wooden chairs scattered around the place with that beautiful smell of fresh cut wood.
The group of us from the hotel, stood around the table in the centre of the room to watch three very clever women at work.
Ana, Silvina and Arliete are artisan Woodcrafters, who make toys, jewellery and games from things like wood, plants and seeds. They are part of Projecto Tasa which is committed to keeping authentic trades alive in rural areas, to promote things such as community and commerce. Many of the people who previously lived in this area have moved towards the coast and so projects like this keep people together and bring business to otherwise very quiet areas of Portugal.
Basket Weaving and eating at the Old Mill
The next day we headed to another project which was some distance from the hotel but we did see some lovely scenery en route. The last 10 minutes was down a dirt track which was great fun as the driver tried to avoid the low hanging branches from scratching the top of the van. The Projecto Taso team had set up an area in an old mill to show us how to make the basket which I am holding in the picture above.
The team were extremely patient with my impatience to get it right straight away. It took a while but I was basket weaving like a (semi) Pro in no time. Sitting in this place with these people who are so passionate about their work was such a treat. They have that energy of people who are at peace. Like they have found their purpose. Sometimes we go to the ends of the earth to find what we think we should be doing to find our purpose. Often times it is something much closer to home than we think and something much simpler than we think.
I enjoyed the serenity of the basket weaving class, but my eye kept going towards the amazing spread they put on for us to feed our hungry bellies. I mean look at the beauty of this table? Would you ever?… it was GORGEOUS. I get a bit funny with buffets sometimes, you see my eyes for sure are infinitely bigger than my stomach.
I tend to pile the plate high with food (exhibit A above) and then head back to the table for seconds and perhaps even thirds. Especially when the food is a good as this was. We had things like salads, cheeses, deep fried salted cod, chicken pie, fresh baked bread and breaded chicken. Such wonderful colourful food.
This lady made us a Corn/polenta based soup which she cooked stirring continuously, whilst waving away any smoke that was headed our way with her handmade basket weaved fan. If you know what this local polenta speciality is called let me know in the comments below. The guide started to tell us all what it was, but then the other food arrived and I dove in to the buffet table instead of listening to the end of the story.
And then there was cake. This chocolate and carrot cake was my favourite.. I will be writing to the baker in question for the recipe.
Please let me know of any typos… my weighing of baking ingredients is extremely accurate but my spotting of typos is less so. Thank you.