Every Saturday and Sunday morning, Santa Brígida welcomes visitors to its modest sized but very friendly farmers and craft market, packed full of local products such as fruits, vegetables, bread, confectionery, cheese, marmalade and wines, which shouldn’t be missed, even if you just want to see, feel and breathe in the special atmosphere.
And nearby is the Casa Museo del Vino, or wine museum, which allows visitors to enter a sensory world with centuries old traditional activities, which indeed last century looked like it was disappearing for good, but has been reborn thanks firstly to the recuperation of the wines around Monte Lentiscal, and then official help from the island’s government with the granting of the Denomination of Origin of Gran Canaria label, certifying origin and quality. With a bar and shop on its premises, it is the ideal place to try out and purchase these locally produced wines.
In La Fonda confectionery shop, on the other hand, we can only breathe a sigh for what is no longer. Its name comes from it having provided accommodation for travelers and holiday makers, with its dining room with marble tables used to serve guests’ dinners. It was still famous as such in the middle of last century, but then was sadly closed at the end of the 1960s. On the ground floor, however, the marble counter and wooden and glass cabinets which made up the bar, café and pastry shop were still open until quite recently, which served some of the products that made this premises famous, such as its marzipans and bizcochos lustrados sponges.
Araceli Hernández was the last in line of several generations of women in her family to continue making these wares. Above all, the bizcochos lustrados taken from a recipe they have used since the 19th century. “Who I can remember are my grandmother and my father’s aunts, who ran the inn, known back then as Fonda Melián. My father was known as Melián although his real name was Antonio Hernández; Melián was actually his second surname”, she tells us.
Araceli’s grandmother was called Eusebia Melián. “People used to bring her their eggs and asked her to make sweets for weddings and christenings–just like in other villages around the island with their unique style of pastries, like Moya and Santa María de Guía–. She always kept them out of my sight, as I was only a small girl”, she explained in an interview a few years ago, laughing as she remembered how sometimes customers would ask her: “Have you got any Bizcochos ilustrados?”. In order to make a carpeto –a baking tray full–, they would use 24 eggs, sugar, flour and grated lemon zest. Once the dough was baked, they would cut it and dunk it in a syrup made out of sugar, water, and a little lemon.
They used to be baked in a stone oven which was on a plot of land the family owned next to the inn, right next to the island’s central main road which passed through the village–. When they sold it and built on the land there, she remembers how her father then went to the bakery to make his sponges. Araceli finally made them in a gas oven she had at the back of the confectioners. What she never made however, despite people asking her for many years, were the “roscones (buns) that my grandma Eusebia made, known as black buns, because she never actually wrote the recipe down, so I don’t know how to make them”.
One recipe that has not been lost, but has actually been improved over the years with its many uses and practices in modern oenology, is the wine production in Gran Canaria, which in Monte Lentiscal has one of its main wine growing regions, as mentioned at the beginning. The quality of the raw materials, essential to any good wine, is in the vineyards which constantly improve in their organization and output with modern day cultivation techniques, and continue to benefit from its volcanic soil and a climate which gives it its seal of identity. The adequate treatment of the grape in the bodega (which come in several varieties, and in some cases have adapted to these lands over a number of centuries) allow us to enjoy red, white, fruity or sweet wines, improving in quality every year.
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