Southern Poetry: Garlic Açorda and Smoked Mussel in Olive Oil
The Alentejo, where the sun gilds the fields of wheat whose ears sway in the wind, is a delicate canvas where everything is quiet, and chaste, and dreamy – that is how Florbela Espanca described it, or nearly so. In a space where there is place for time, groups of friends gather at the table on the porches of typical Alentejo houses. Whitewashed and with blue or yellow stripes marking the superstitions of yesteryear, the shadow of the open space without walls offers the comfort of the late afternoon to those who toast to friendship, even without knowing it. Around the snack, a glass of wine makes room for inspiration for the poetry that follows.
In the grammar of cilantro and quicklime by Manuel Alegre fits the world of the Alentejo garlic açorda. In this recipe garlic has the main role. With its roots in an Arab dish, tharid, the traditional Alentejo garlic açorda is made using bread, preferably homemade and stale, soaked in hot broth flavoured with coriander previously crushed in a mortar and reduced to a pulp, to which are added cloves of garlic, coarse salt and olive oil.
Canned smoked mussels in olive oil, the perfect match that we suggest for the garlic açorda in this art of creating poetry, arrive to shake up this institution of Alentejo gastronomy and add a touch of sublimation with an unexpected taste of the sea. The mussel, itself an aesthetic poem drawn by nature, full of flavour and raised by Comur to the heights of smoked goods, in no way demeans the açorda. On the contrary – it adds to it.
A humble and resistant mollusc that no matter how hard the sea pounds the rocks remains there with the determination of one who wants to end up in a grand delicacy, meets another humble icon, the açorda, to celebrate friendship on Alentejo porches to the delight of the guests.
Beyond the borders of the Alentejo, açorda is the best-known dish of Alentejo cuisine, which graces the table of the poor and the rich with the same popular refinement. And it is in the mystery of its immensity, where time walks but never arrives, by Miguel Torga, that the Alentejo is the perfect setting for the declamation of this poem: garlic açorda that rhymes charmingly with smoked mussels in olive oil, from Comur.