Monday, August 1, 2011

Sopas and Pride

Hubby's family has a very strong Azorean heritage, which is celebrated throughout the year. Each June, the small town he grew up in (and in which his Mom and a sister still live) holds a Festa. This tradition began in Portugal and is known as the Holy Ghost Festa and is still the center of the Azorean Culture. The legend dates back to 2 centuries beginning in the late 1200's when there was much famine and poverty in the country. The struggling families gathered in their churches and prayed to the Holy Spirit. Queen Isabel was determined to help her people and set out to sell the crown jewels, (some versions of this legend say that she was carrying bread, but I like this version better), when she was confronted by King Diniz, who was not so compassionate. He asked the Queen what she was carrying in her apron. Even though it was mid-winter, she answered, "Roses". When she opened her apron to show the king, the jewels (or bread) had been turned to roses! This miracle allowed the Queen to sell the jewels and feed the Portuguese people. Today, the Espirito Santo Festa has evolved into an annual celebration of thanksgiving for Queen Isabel's unselfish gifts of food for the poor. Young girls are crowned queens and the Mass is followed by a free meal to the community of Sopas. Sopas translates directly to mean soups and was an inexpensive and practical way to feed hundreds of people. The "Festa Season" here begins in June and ends in August. In that time, there is a Festa in a different Portuguese community throughout this state each week. Sopas are served en mass at halls as well as delivered to the community who can not travel. This way, any person who wants to be fed, can be fed.




My father in law, along with his brother in law, made Sopas in their community for years before their deaths and were rumored to be among the best. In addition to the cultural aspect of this Celebration, it is very personal to our family and we enjoy the day. It begins with the parade...Queens and their court travel from Festa to Festa, representing their community. Our parade begins at the Portuguese Hall and travels several blocks to church. At this time, the first round of Sopas are served. After Mass ends, the parade reverses its route and the second round of food is served. The men who prepare the meal have been working on it for 2 days and take their roles very seriously. The hard work of preparing the food is over and the cooks can relax a bit and take in the scene and be proud of their accomplishment.













At this point, the bowls of food are lined on the counter and delivered to the tables with precision. The taller man in the right picture below, is directing the other men to the proper tables. The bowls are feeding many people and they have it down to a science on where to place the food. If a bowl is emptied, a fresh one will be delivered before you can even ask. Really amazing when you think about it.













The first bowl consists of slow cooked beef and cabbage. The second is thick sliced day old bread in the broth...can I tell you that this is not the prettiest of meal, but it is stick to your ribs nummy!












After the food is all served, there it time to visit with friends and family...













...and time to reflect on the past.









(This plaque was placed next to the kitchen after my father in law passed away)




I am proud to be a part of this tradition and help teach my children of its importance.

4 comments:

Janie Fox said...

this sounds and looks like such a great experience. I love traditions with kids... they will look back and cherish these times.

www.hihosilverspoon.com said...

I have been to many of these in my younger days and actually don't recall all these fine points of it! Thank you for pointing out the REAL reason it goes on...

Tipper said...

What wonderful history and heritage-I love it : )(

Twisted Fencepost said...

What a neat tradition. I've never heard of it.
I would love to attend one of these.