“Mediterranean Algarve” is a fascinating experience in discovering the Algarve and a work that you can really enjoy to the full. In the course of its 320 pages, readers are invited to (re)discover the huge wealth of Mediterranean tradition in the region through its magnificent texts, splendid photographs and suggestions for contemporary cuisine. And the focus is on these three aspects because, having started with decades of work by the researcher Maria Manuel Valagão, it achieved its final form with the involvement of the photographer Vasco Célio(1) and the chef Bertílio Gomes(2).
Maria Valagão told ECO123 that the book focuses on the Algarve Mediterranean diet, but not in a purely gastronomic sense, given that the concept of “diet” comprises something much bigger, “a lifestyle”. That is, rather than just dealing with the Algarve’s food products, and how they are produced and processed, “Mediterranean Algarve” makes the link between these and the ancestral customs of the region, its geography, its handicrafts and its people. And so, throughout the book, we find chapters dedicated to fruit and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and to seasonings, bread and appetisers. But these are always brought together with the houses of the Algarve, their patios and kitchens, with nature and the landscape, with handicraft items, utensils and decorations, and with people.
The book also reflects Maria Valagão’s respect for the natural cycles of food production. This guided the way in which the work developed: all the photographs were taken, and all the recipes were developed, throughout the year, using the normal foodstuffs available in each season. And this is something that comes over while you are reading “Mediterranean Algarve” – it is a product that has been matured to perfection, where everything suggests a calm, patient process of selection.
But this book is not limited to the huge amount of information gathering and research by Maria Valagão, nor to merely studying the past. As is customary in her work, the researcher always suggests paths of innovation and discovery. And here the focus is on the appealing ideas for contemporary cuisine developed by Bertílio Gomes, which always employs regional produce linked to the Mediterranean diet.
This is a book that is brimming with discoveries that will surprise and delight you. People originally from the Algarve will find, or relive, parts of their ancestral heritage, rediscovering terms and customs they had forgotten because they are not part of their daily routines. Of particular note in this regard is the work’s magnificent glossary, full of words that disuse was threatening to consign to oblivion. But for people who have no close ties to the region, this work is a wonderful tour of discovery of old knowledge, which fortunately is still put into practice today. Maria Valagão says that “this transmission and sharing of knowledge is essential,” not only to preserve it, but mainly to introduce readers to new experiences and discoveries that end up becoming part of their lives.
This is a luxurious publication, and the great quality of the design and production reflect the care, time and skill that the authors invested in it. The translation and revision of the English version are excellent. An indispensable book.
Maria Manuel Valagão has a doctorate in environmental sciences (1990) from FCT/UNL (Faculty of Sciences and Technology/New University of Lisbon); researcher in the sociology of food and the environment at the National Institute of Biological Resources (1976- 2009); consultant in the Food and Nutrition Policy Division of the FAO/UN, Rome (1980-1995); expert on the Comité Scientifique des Appellations d’Origine, Indications Geographiques et Attestations de Specificité Alimentaire of the EU, Brussels (1994-1997); guest lecturer at ISCTE (1996-2003); researcher at IELT (Institute for the Studies of Literature and Tradition – Heritage, Arts and Cultures) FCSH/UNL (since 2010); author and co-author of articles and books focusing on Mediterranean traditions, some of them published and publicised in countries in southern Europe
Authors: Maria Manuel Valagão (text and coordination), Vasco Célio (photography ) and Bertílio Gomes (contemporary cuisine)
Publisher:: Tinta da China
Release date: October 2015
Pages: 320; soft cover