When we first bought the quinta in 1992, in addition to being self sufficient in vegetables, fruit, olive oil, wine and of course port, we also had chickens, roosters, ducks and pigs. We slaughtered 2 pigs a year, and always had legs hanging to season in the kitchen’s enormous chimney. Fowl was prepared in a myriad of ways and had flavor! Vegetables were seasonal and picked fresh in the morning to be served at lunch. I loved this ambiance, being a Californian who had never lived on a working farm, such as our quinta. Our children had a ball running around, being dirty most of the time, exploring and being part of the quinta in action. Feeding the feathered animals and pigs was a highlight, and they would excuse themselves from the table to run outside with kitchen scraps and breadcrumbs to offer. Of course they would much rather do that than to sit down and eat! I remember one day at lunch when my then 3 year-old daughter Odile, looking at the steaming tray of rice with meat waiting to be served, asked “Mamma, where’s da red rooster dat I fed dis morning?” You can only imagine!
We no longer have these farm animals but we do boast home-grown seasonal vegetables, from tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, beans, lettuce and one vegetable that finds its way into almost every meal….cabbage! Oranges, tangerines, lemons and almonds also abound, and the cornucopia overflows.
At Quinta do Tedo we do not have tractors to work the land, as mentioned in a previous blog, we have a horse and around 6 workers, in addition to our cook, manager/winemaker, assistant winemaker, tour guide, and occasional extra help, that mushrooms into a crew of 25 at harvest! We have 2 meals a day for those who toil outside; a “snack” at 10 AM; typically soup, potatoes, grilled sardines or another protein source and at 1 PM; a proper hot lunch, starting with soup, following varies from baccalhau or fish, to grilled pork ribs, roasted chicken or braised beef to feijoada (a bean stew with pig ears, tripe and sausage), always accompanied by rice, pasta, beans or potatoes. A full stomach=a happy worker is a saying that we believe in. Our table wine is for all, mais bien sûr! The vineyard workers have one room and the large kitchen is where we eat, together with the winemakers, the tour guide, and any visiting friends, family or business connections. Lunch is the time to sit down and talk and to be together.
When people ask me how is the food at our quinta, given that I am not Portuguese, I generally respond that it is, in a nutshell, “simple, yet very flavorful”. Now “simple” is very subjective. The methods of making many dishes at the quinta are not simple, they take time; dishes simmer for hours on the stovetop or roast in the oven, meat and fish are marinated before grilling, discreet herbs and spices are used. Ours is a working farm, the cook prepares for everyone, no one dish “jumps out” at you, flavors are harmonious. The core ingredients are genuine, because for the most part they come from our land. Our olive oil is soft and delicious, our table wine has a hint of port in the bouquet and is round and inviting in the mouth, and the port speaks for itself.
Life is good at the quinta and we are so lucky to be here.