In the Alentejo, you eat and drink very well. Eating, drinking and snacking (petiscos) are rituals, ways of socialising, of entertaining friends and guests, of celebrating. It is customary to say that, in a true Alentejan’s house, whether rich or poor, the table is always set. It is true. And this truth confers a very special flavour on the discovery of the gastronomy and the wines. They are products of recognised value for tourists, but it was not Tourism that created them for outside consumption: they are part – and a happy part – of the most authentic daily life of the Region. In the light of this, we can offer only one invitation: be Alentejan for a few days!
From traditional recipes to recent innovations in gourmet cooking, from the savouries to the traditional sweets and puddings created in convents, in the Alentejo you will find everything, created and recreated with the finest products of the land, a lot of imagination and that mysterious thing called "mão” ("touch”). The wines, the cheeses, the cured meats and sausages are excellent. The sweets and puddings are a divine sin. There has been serious investment in the certification of products. There are new projects for organic products. And, as regards the table, there is a curious understanding between generations. Dedicate time to discovering all of this. Experience an upmarket restaurant, which offers a meal prepared with refined sophistication, as well as genuine popular cooking, which is often found in a village tasca (small restaurant or tavern) where people are found at the end of the day enjoying their petiscos (snacks). Taste the wines in the adegas (wineries) in direct contact with the producers. Participate in cookery courses. And don’t be worried about your diet: some good walks will burn off the calories.
This is a truly Alentejan institution. There is no end of the day when you do not feel the slow movement of steps that know how to follow the route to the meeting points where amenable chat can be enjoyed, accompanied by a glass of wine and one of the innumerable "pratinhos” (little plates): torresmos (a kind of pork crackling), pimentos assados (roast peppers), cabeça de borrego assado em forno de lenha (lamb’s head roasted in a wooden oven), orelha de porco (pig’s ear), cabeça de xara (brawn), fígado de coentrada (liver with coriander), cenourinhas de azeite e alho (carrots in olive oil and garic), cogumelos assados (baked mushrooms), salada de polvo (octopus salad), grão com bacalhau (cod and chickpeas) … the list is endless. But it would be incomplete without caracois (snails), our "seafood of the stubble”, the cooking of which perfumes the terraces of summer with the unmistakable aroma of oregano collected from the countryside.
Some of these pratinhos are also served as starters in restaurants. But petisco is petisco. Now it is no longer only for men – who formerly went to the tavern while the women looked after the children and made dinner – and is increasingly being adopted by young people from here who, even when they eat fast food, never forget their preference for the homemade taste of traditional cooking.
Have a petisco, wherever you are, because it is one of those experiences which, as you are being Alentejan for a few days, you cannot miss.