Week 46: Easter egg

The streets of São Bras de Alportel decorated ready for the Festa das Tochas Floridas: the flower-torch festival

The streets of São Brás de Alportel decorated for the Festa das Tochas Floridas on Easter Sunday: the flower-torch festival

One of thousands of flower patterns

One of the many flower patterns

The firefighters' flower plaque: with a phoenix rising from the nasturium flames

The firefighters’ wild-fennel and flower plaque: a phoenix rises from the nasturtium flames

I think this girl knew she'd be photographed a lot, so she wore a shirt with a cheeky message for everyone

Hard at work early in the morning. I think this girl knew she’d be photographed a lot, so she wore a shirt with a cheeky message for everyone

The 'aleluia' moment

The procession: the flower torches must have been in their hundreds

Here and there in our valley, orange trees drenched in blossom are saturating the air with exquisite scent and competing with the hitherto dominant amber tones of the gum cistus. Even our own little mandarin tree is making a good showing.

On Easter Saturday I dropped in at Flaviano’s to check for post, and was met by three persons standing in a row: Father Christmas, Flaviano and a pleasantly round-faced woman of uncertain age. I greeted them. The woman returned the greeting in a very friendly way; Flaviano was reserved, as he sometimes is, usually just before breaking into a broad smile or a cackle. Santa was silent.

You might wonder why Father Christmas (see Week 31) is still in the picture at Easter. We did ask Flaviano a few weeks ago, and he said that Santa only lived next door in the store room – which is where we go through the piles of envelopes for any addressed to us. I had never noticed Santa lurking in there before he came out for Christmas proper, but never mind. The reasoning went: since he would only be in the next room anyway, he might as well stay out here in the front.

As I was checking for post, the friendly woman came and offered me a wedge of something to eat. With its cross-section of hard-boiled egg, it looked like pork pie. I rarely say no to food, so I took it and bit in. It was cake, with a rather bread-like texture, a hint of aniseed in the flavour and enclosing a boiled egg. Disconcertingly, the egg was still in its shell. The texture of the cake gave it away as home-made, which is always a pleasure, but grinding through the eggshell was less so. It’s a traditional Easter cake, folar de Páscoa, she said.

Back at home research revealed that a hard-boiled egg in its shell is part of the folar deal. In some versions the boiled egg is put on top of the cake and held in place with strips of pastry; in others, such as the one I had, it is buried inside the cake. My main question went unanswered, however. So I turned to the owner of a restaurant we went to on Sunday night – a beautiful place in the hills, traditional Portuguese with a fine-dining flair and one of our favourite places to go out to.

‘Are you supposed to eat the shell?’

‘No,’ he said immediately, smiling. It seems that this is rather like asking an Englishman if you are supposed to eat the sixpence in a Christmas pudding. Though how you delicately and discreetly avoid eating shell, I’m still not sure.

Early on an overcast Easter Sunday we went to São Brás de Alportel to watch the streets being laid with flowers for the Festa das Tochas Floridas. After Mass the men process from the church through the decorated streets, lifting their flower torches in response to the call, ‘Ressuscitou como disse’ – He has risen, as He said – and shouting three times, ‘Aleluia!’ The flowers on the tarmac soon get scattered, and by the end of the day are swept away. (With thanks to Fiona for the photographs; I had a camera/competence malfunction that day.)

Guarda Nacional Republicana

Easter festivities end on a Sunday; on Monday it is back to work. And on Monday we had a visit from a policeman. The GNR vehicle rolled up outside our front terrace and stopped. Unsure what else to do, I said good morning. The policeman smiled and returned the greeting. He asked for Mr Sensible; of course, we explained that we were now the owners, then he asked if he could come in.

Handshakes all round and first-name introductions. Our rising concerns were quickly dissipated. The purpose of his visit was to explain about the Programa Residencia Segura, the safe residence programme. All remote houses are allocated a reference number and a GPS setting so that they can be quickly and easily found in case of emergency. We now have a record of our number so we can quote it if needed.

Friends have been staying with us this week. One of the great things about having friends to stay is the collective enthusiasm that gets generated. With Fiona and Mike, we did two things we had never done before:

  1. We finally swam in the river. It was lovely.
  2. We bought a chandelier.
Even our small but bountiful mandarin tree adds to the citrus blossom scent

Our very own small but highly scented mandarin tree

The chandelier, which came from a flea market in Tavira, will be the finished touch in the kitchen (note: the ceilings are very high)

The chandelier, from a flea market in Tavira, will be the finishing touch in the kitchen (the ceilings here are very high)

6 Comments

  1. Hazel

    The Easter flowers remind me irresistibly of the Derbyshire well-dressings — the flower pictures, which I saw for the first time just a couple of years ago. Lovely scents drifting from my computer screen this morning, apropos all that citrus blossom — and I’m beginning to look forward, with just a touch of trepidation about the water temp — to a swim in your river!! I note cropped trousers in the pic above: not warm enough here yet for such . . . xx

    Reply
  2. Robert Brown

    Very interesting article. But apparently the eggs in Folar are baked in the cake, and not hard boiled. Whether this makes any difference to the taste is questionable. The one we bought in the market at Olhau had the eggs sitting in the top of the cake so that you could at least remove them to take the shell off.

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Thank you – I have had conflicting views on the eggs being pre-boiled or not. Makes more sense to use them raw (more sparing of resources, which would be more in keeping with traditional practices).

      Reply
  3. Clare

    Very much enjoyed this week’s post. Your description of the orange blossom evoked memories of a drive in to Marrakesh where the air was highly perfumed as you describe – unforgettable. Thank you. A belated Happy Easter to you both. (I like the chandelier!)

    Reply
  4. Caroline Anderson

    We may have brushed shoulders in Sao Bras on Sunday morning, prior to the procession, the mounting anticipation was palpable was it not ? We were told that there is a prize for the best flower torch and that those hand made from wild flowers of the field are normally valued more highly than those purchased from the florist…still, I rather favoured the flower bike on its pole, very clever.

    Reply
  5. fatma

    Somewhat prosaic I know, amidst the lovely flower displays and mystery of the edible or otherwise egg but, how reassuring to know that the Guarda Nacional Republicana have your number! Most unexpected.

    Reply

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