Chronicle of Dora Mota: “The pleasure of wonder and learning”
Being a food judge may seem easy, but judging dishes was one of the most complex tasks I had to do. It's different to eat for pleasure and eat to judge.
In the summer, I did something I had never done before: I was a judge on a gastronomy contest. It was memorable for several reasons, the main one being in the company of our wine and gastronomy critic, Fernando Melo. Fernando is a polyhedron. He was a physics scientist and reveals fascinating knowledge about things at every step, from galaxies to tomatoes. He has an abrupt and disconcerting sense of humor, which balances in the paradox of being as sharp as it is compassionate. Wrapping everything up in a laugh that takes everything forward. Having lunch four times a day with this person is an experience in itself.
He was the one who made me join the jury of the I Beira Interior Gourmet, destined to promote the harmonization of regional dishes with wines from that region - and living with all these treasures was another reason not to forget those days of July very hot, traveling miles from Beira Alta to Beira Baixa, passing through cities where I had never been.
Here I am in the face of another reason why these two remain in my memory: how come I never went to Castelo Branco, Vila Velha de Ródão or Proença-a-Nova? And how come I haven't been back to Guarda or Covilhã for so many years? And what beauty in those mountains so suffered by fires, so immense on the horizon, so marginal in our monocordic imaginary of inhabitants of coastal metropolises.
He left to return soon: in August, I spent a week camping in Oleiros. It was one of the best vacation weeks of my life, with dives in all the river beaches that appeared in front of us, with passages in fabulous restaurants and with a suitcase full of cheese and sweets on the way back.
Being a food judge may seem easy, but it is not. Judging dishes was one of the most complex tasks I had to do, as well as judging their harmonization with wine. There are many things to take into account, it takes a great deal of concentration, to distinguish details. It is very different to eat for pleasure and eat to taste and evaluate.
I learned a lot from Fernando and my jury partners, including chef Rui Cerveira and winemaker Patrícia Santos - and I realized the luck of these partners in the first minute, so I was a sponge of attention. I didn't think of any ending for this chronicle, contrary to what is usual. I just wanted to share the idea that the pleasure of learning, being amazed and expanding horizons can occur at any time.