Today I’ll be talking about a trip to the Island of Pico (Azores, Portugal) in 2011, a big party, and a memorable dish called entremeada that I enjoyed at my cousin’s house.
How one party doubled the population of my town.
In 2009, a group of friends and I were reminiscing, via a Skype video chat (because we were now physically separated by thousands of kilometres of land and sea), about the good ‘ol summer days when we were teens, living in our small town of Ribeiras (in the Island of Pico, Azores).
The summers always saw the return of loads of immigrants, now back with their own children, to visit the town they once called home. It was also the time when students, like me, who had been away at school on another island or the mainland, would return home for the summer break. Our quiet little town was suddenly packed with people having a great time every day. My friends and I spent many hours sunbathing on the pier, diving, swimming, and building our strength with some rowing training in the old whaling boats. There was always a friend or cousin around to hang out with and share a laugh–and we did both of those things… a lot…from morning until the wee hours of the night!
Over the years, a lot of people left the town for work or school and they did not return. Some families moved to the US or Canada; and many had not returned, not even for a visit, in a very long time.
So, during our Skype chat, someone sighed and said, “I wish we could have a summer like we did when we were younger”. I think we all felt the pull at that moment, and then someone said, “Why not? Let’s recreate that experience and share it with our families and the town’s residents”. I think that’s how all great ideas start… with someone saying, “We should totally do that!”
Fast forward to 2011
We called it Projecto Maré Cheia 2011 (watch our summary video on YouTube). Maré Cheia means high tide. Our intention was to fill the town with “tides of people” with any connection to the town; whether they once lived there themselves or had friends and relatives who did. From the Skype chat in 2009 to August 2011, we spent our spare time planning and getting the word out. We created a website, we leveraged social media, TV, radio, newspapers, and word of mouth (which works really well, we discovered).
After two years of talking to local politicians, the media, the local airline, and many of the town’s residents and social groups… we did it! Our little idea had culminated into a week-long party (and reunion) which almost doubled the town’s population.
Everyone in the town helped organize and host a fantastic party that included a variety of events and activities. There was something for everyone; all ages; all interests. Some of these activities included:
- Concerts (some folk music, a couple of rock bands, and even a rave)
- Sporting events (such as beach volleyball…and with no beach or sand in our town, they brought in sand and built a beach volleyball court–wild!)
- Nature hikes (beautiful… and for me, exhausting)
- Zip lining (over the ocean from the hillside to the dock–freakin’ cool)
- Outdoor religious mass
- Traditional and modern dances
- A giant potluck dinner
- Pool-side activities
- Food and beer tents
- Performances by the local Philharmonics
- Popup museums of old traditions and history of our town’s whalers
- Music performances by local musicians
- …and so much more!
It was everything I had hoped it would be…and so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Once the party was over…
While the week was incredibly fun; I was reminded that I was no longer a teen (like in the good ‘ol days). I was tired. Also, my parents live there so I wanted to have a little-down time catching up with them, and I wanted to chill with my cousins and the friends that I grew up with in the town. So we spent this week enjoying quieter times, eating and hanging out in smaller groups. And we ate a lot.
So what’s entremeada?
Entremeada is a cut of pork belly that looks a lot like thick bacon looks before it’s cured or smoked. I had never had this before (I must have been deprived). During the last week of our vacation, one of my cousins invited my family and I to a BBQ at his place. In typical Azores style, he had enough food to feed a small army… maybe even a large army 🙂 A few of the items were traditional foods, but there was one that stood out for me… entremeada. It was so simple… almost caveman-like. A simple piece of meat, seasoned only with salt, and grilled to perfection on an open flame.
What took me so long?
The same cousin who introduced me to this dish recently commented on one of our Instagram shots and said “why don’t you make entremeada?”. Great questions. Why hadn’t I made this yet? And like all great ideas that start with…”You should totally do that”… I did. And tonight…although it was no Mare Cheia, Liz, our kids, and I stood around our kitchen island, snacking on grilled entremeada, dancing like no one was watching, talking about visiting Pico again, and feeling truly content.
So here you have it… our version of entremeada. There are variations of this recipe, but we decided to follow my cousin’s lead and share with you the most basic version–salted, grilled, and a squeeze of lemon.
Go enjoy a party, spend time with friends, reminisce about the “good’ol days”. You totally should! And always eat well, friends.
Portuguese Style Grilled Pork Belly (Entremeada)
- 2 1/4 lbs (1 kg) thinly sliced side pork or pork belly, about 12 slices (Entremeada) , the slices should look like very thick bacon.
- 1 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
- a little vegetable oil or cooking spray to coat the grill
- a few wedges of lemon to squeeze over the cooked meat
- Remove the pork belly from the fridge and lay all the slices out on a cutting board beside each-other.
- Sprinkle the salt over all the slices evenly and on both side of each of the slices.
- Let rest for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Preheat the grill to between 450 ºF and 500 ºF.
- Carefully oil up the BBQ grates with a towel.
- Places the pork belly slices on the grill sideways from the BBQ grates (perpendicular to the grates) to get nice grill marks and to keep the slices from falling through.
- Close the BBQ lid and let the pork belly slices grill for about 5 minutes.
- Open the BBQ lid and turn the slices over. The cooked side should look crispy on the edges and have nice grill marks.
- Close the lid and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
- Take the slices off the grill and cut them into smaller snack size pieces. Squirt some fresh lemon over the meat, serve and enjoy!
- Based on my research, other common ingredients for this dish include garlic, pepper sauce, beer, wine, black pepper and soy sauce. Feel free to experiment. We loved it simple.
- Cooking times may very depending on your grill. Be careful not to over cook the slices, as they'll become dry and chewy.
- Watch the grill while cooking. This meat has lots of fat that breaks down while cooking and can lead to a bit of flareup.
- Many people serve the entremeada with french fries or rice. Ours was served on it's own as an appetizer with wedges of lemon.