Food Love - In Search of Pig and Port

Traveling is an essential experience for the caterer. The world is a cookbook and if you don't travel you only get one page. Here at A Divine Event, our culinary philosophy and approach is Southern Inspired and Internationally Influenced.

And now I have just returned from two weeks in Portugal on my annual culinary pilgrimage. This year's travels found me "In Search of Pig and Port". Pig being the famous Portuguese roast suckling pig "leitão assado," where in the town of Mealhada the brick ovens are fueled by eucalyptus bark and dozens of restaurants advertise this specialty.

The crispy meat is paired with a robust red wine from the Douro River region, the Napa Valley of Portugal. The river rises in Spain and flows across Northern Portugal reaching the sea at Portugal's second city, Oporto. The valley is spectacularly beautiful with grape vine terraced hills that fall steeply down to the water´s edge. This is the world´s first demarcated wine region being established in 1756. It is home to such Port wine names as Cockburns, Taylors, and Sandeman.

Being from the South, nothing is more mouth-watering than the summer rituals of the pig-pit barbecue feast. Having the good fortune of living down the street from the world famous Fatt Matt's Rib Shack, as I ate my pig, I wondered how the Portuguese would feel if it was offered with barbecue sauce? The Portuguese, being steeped (stuck) in tradition, I think would find the experience one of shock and awe that anyone would want to sauce the treasured morsels of the leitão assado.

As the 2010 President of the International Caterers Association, it has always been my agenda to promote traveling as a key experience for our membership. Back in 2006 I started the ICA Culinary Learning Journey program and we will continue the program with two upcoming trips.

First, in September, with "The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies". The Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily were the largest of the Italian states before Italian unification. In 1861 they were annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia, which changed its name to the Kingdom of Italy.

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Next, in March 2011, "Food, People, Land - A Chef's Tour of the Holy Land" should prove to be a really amazing trip.

Rudyard Kipling wrote “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” I will add "and taste it" to his observations.

2010Tori HannaB