To Sink or Swim in a Glass of Grenache

Grenache Wine

While most fathers try to teach their sons useful, practical things like how to change a tire or fix a leaky faucet, my father was bent on teaching me how to make wine. Every Saturday in October when I was growing up in Swansea, MA, just over the border from Providence, he would rouse me from bed at the Dickensian hour of 8:30 a.m. I’d stumble out to the acre of grapevines in the backyard and sleepily eat a bowl of Count Chocula cereal while he quizzed me on whether the grapes were ready for crushing. The tiny vineyard, along with a sizable vegetable garden and a dozen and a half fruit trees, was a holdover from his youth in Portugal. As a child on São Miguel, the largest of the Azorean Islands, he helped his father make the family wine. Now, apparently, my Dad felt it was my turn. As he droned on, I fantasized about sticking my tongue to one of the cold metal poles that held up the vines, just so I could make him stop. Read more “To Sink or Swim in a Glass of Grenache” »

Feeding the Feast

Cloisters in Ponta Delgada

“I  bet no one knows pirates had a hand in this,” my friend Ana Maria Albuquerque Taveira said of the glut of religious pilgrims squeezing by us. Her arm was flung over the railing of the tasquinha, one of dozens of jerry-rigged food stalls that residents of Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azorean island of São Miguel, had set up for the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres.

Every year, the usually circumspect islanders grow festive during the event, held on the fifth Sunday after Easter. Throughout that week, the city turns inside out like a glove as everyone from grandmothers to restaurateurs, normally content to cook inside, pour out into the streets to hawk their food to an equally enthusiastic audience. Growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts, one of America’s biggest Little Azores, I took part in countless religious festivals. Still, I wanted to experience this one, which has as its centerpiece a life-size bust of Christ purported to perform miracles, for no other festa offers such unself-conscious pageantry, solemnity, and, frankly, glitz. Read more “Feeding the Feast” »