Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Pilgrimages, peppers and other heated matters.

My friend Colin is walking part of the Camino de Santiago with a group of friends. I suspect he’s had a HOT time of it these last few days, after being rained on quite a lot in his training walks. See his comments on his blog. At 7.30 this evening a local chemist here was registering 28° so it must have been hot out on the road. And we are supposed to be in the cooler part of Spain! Quite how my sister is surviving the 35° they’ve been having in her part of Andalucía I can’t imagine. It’s a good job she installed air conditioning last summer.

There are ev
en Japanese on the Camino according to reports in the newspaper. A family from that faraway place is walking the Camino with their children, at 15 and 10 the youngest on the pilgrimage at the moment.

In other parts of Galicia, in fact very close to Vigo, they are having some problems organising different activities. In Redondela, on the Thursday follo
wing the eighth day of Whitsuntide, which must be around now, they have the Festa da Coca. No, it’s nothing to do with Coca-Cola. It seems that the origins of this festival are, as they often say, lost in the mists of time but the legend goes that centuries ago a dragon lived near Redondela. That's why the origins are lost in the mists of time; you don't see many dragons these days!

Anyway, this dragon, who went by the name of Coca, occasionally popped into Redondela and carried off a young maiden to his cave: the usual sort of dragon story. Eventually the young fishermen of Redondela had had enough and went off with their swords, defeated the dragon and liberated the maidens. Then they took Coca off to Redondela, finished him off and did a sword dance. It begins to sound like Morris-dancing with a good story thrown in.

To celebrate this heroic victory, on the feast of Corpus Christi some people dress up as the dragon and Coca is defeated again and the brave young men do the sword dance again. There is also a procession of young maidens, small ones this time, called penlas, little girls
dressed in white and with angels’ wings fastened to their shoulders. These penlas are carried on the shoulders of older women, known as las burras de Redondela (the female donkeys). Now these ladies have to be fairly strong and well-trained as they perform a dance with the little girls standing on their shoulders. The problem is that while they can find lots of penlas (every mother thinks her little girl is a little angel, after all) it is becoming more and more difficult to find the burras. Every year there are fewer and fewer women with the strength and the stamina to do the dance. Such are the problems of modern Galicia!

And then there is the problem of the pimientos de Padrón. These tasty little green peppers, just coming into the point in the season where they are more likely to be picante and surprise you with their fiery taste, are grown in Padrón, not far from La Coruña. However, they are also grown nowadays in Almería, Marruecos and anywhere else where they grow fruit and veg under plastic. Understandably the growers from Padrón are a little peeved. So from now on the authentic pimientos de Padrón will be known as pimientos de Herbón, taking their name from the exact bit of Padrón where they are cultivated.

Well, the French insisted that no-one but the wine producers of the Champagne region can use that name for sparkling wine, so the green pepper producers have exactly the same rights to get a little fiery and protect their produce and their good name!

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