I am 100% Portuguese. Family lore says that sometime in the 1860s, or thereabouts, my ancestors went from the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, to Hawaii with Captain James Cook's missionaries on their honeymoon - "on a lark." My
parents, brother and I were born in Hawaii and moved to San Diego in February of 1953.
And here we are - "Coming to America" - from left to right - my brother Al, me, my Dad Al, my mom Olga, and my Grandma Rocha. Look how dressed up we were! That's how people dressed to travel back in the day. This photo was taken at the Honolulu airport just before we left to move here permanently. Thanks to my bro for being the family historian and digging this treasure out.
There is also a large Portuguese population in San Diego, but I was not raised in or around that culture. It was the 50s - a time of assimilation - so I had very little exposure to my heritage - except for the occasional "Festa" (pronounced feshta). The year 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of the Festa, and so I decided to go. As I walked up to see the dancers - a huge draw for the day's festivities - they were dancing the "Chamarita," a Portuguese folk dance that is inherent in some of my fondest memories of my beloved Grandma Rocha. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.
Coincidentally, the bread that came up for that week's rotation was the Portuguese sweet bread, which i had just made the night before. Something so comforting when the universe is in order like that.
My photo essay that follows is of the Festa experience as well as my journey to Poruguese sweet bread land.
Two of the dancers from Northern California who travel from Festa to Festa dancing the Chamarita and other traditional Portuguese folk dances. They have day jobs; they just do this for fun. Made me want to learn this dance from my childhood memories. And by the way, their arms are over their heads during the entire dance. No need to work out any more than this.
And here I am with two of the dancers. They were very friendly - and great dancers.
This troupe had the best costumes - by far. Their partners matched the colors with their own costumes. They looked great!
This group had traveled down from San Leandro, where there is a huge Portuguese population. The woman directly to my right was so friendly, and in true Portuguese style - loved to talk. We were a great pair!
And now onto the bread: Fresh out of the oven, this was a winner, but as soon as it cooled, it was pretty dry. I have had this experience before, and I am not quite sure why this happens, but no matter. I made bread pudding the next day with the leftovers, and it was outstanding! I imagine it would make fantastic French toast too, for the same reason.