Preserving the Algarve’s culinary heritage

Around two-and-a-half years ago, local association In Loco, based in São Brás de Alportel, began the mammoth task of creating two legs of the European incentive MEDFEST for the Algarve and Alentejo.

MEDFEST is a project that was created to promote gastronomic heritage experiences throughout the eight participating countries – Portugal, France, Croatia, Spain, Slovenia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

The types of experiences are based around five subjects: culinary event, specific tourist site, food product service, tourist sites network and professional activity.

I met with Artur Gregório, In Loco president, and Arlete Rodrigues, the association’s ecotourism specialist, at the lovely Herdade da Corte in the hills behind Tavira where we enjoyed a Cataplana cookery class with Chef Margarida Vargues who has been heavily involved in promoting the healthy Mediterranean diet for some years now.

Artur and Arlete explained: “We are aware that the primary motivation of many tourists and visitors is changing, evolving from ‘seeing and consuming’ to ‘engagement and experiencing’-based activities.

Expressions such as cultural landscape, communities, creativity, music, food, and lifestyle elements are becoming more popular, and many people’s goal is one of sustainability.

Gastronomy is synonymous with the people of the Mediterranean. Cultural identity and culinary heritage are translated into the use of products and ingredients produced seasonally by local communities; inspired by traditional knowledge and enjoyed in places full of content and meaning, playing a unique role and stimulating the alliance between regional development and sustainable tourism.

The objective of the MEDFEST project is to create or improve, in Mediterranean regions, existing strategies for the development of sustainable small-scale gastronomic tourism and to develop sustainable culinary experiences linking coastal and rural areas, as a powerful tool for promoting ‘alternative’ and sustainable tourist destinations.

An international conference will take place in Tavira on September 5 where all eight countries will come together with their routes.

Some of the confirmed participants of the Algarve route include the beautiful biological-certified A Quinta in Santo Estêvão, Tavira, that I visited to make bread. And being Easter, our group also made a delicious Folar da Páscoa (Easter cake).

It was a fabulous, interactive, fun and educational experience. We had a tour of the farm, met the animals, kneaded bread and made cakes (all in the traditional way), before popping them in the open oven.

We waited for the fruits of our labour to cook and enjoyed a beautiful, rustic lunch with our gracious hostess Josefina Saias, who has restored her family farm into a working museum and events destination.

We also tasted olive oils and liqueurs at Pecoliva – Sabor do Sul and experienced a walking tour with a twist through Tavira where we learned about architectural, local and folk history, tested our brains with some puzzle-solving before putting our finding on paper with a drawing of our experience from the perspective of one keyword. This tour was put together by Barroca.

Loulé Criativo are also a perfect fit for the MEDFEST brief, offering an abundance of culinary, creative, artistic and cultural experiences. There will be many more joining the Mediterranean diet route that will be released later this year.



Photos: Vasco Célio/Stills