It was Friday night and all of us were pretty exhausted from our day trip to Costa Nova as well as still recovering from the whole baby pig roast we’d had for dinner. We were lounging around, reading, watching TV, checking the time now and again, because Joe had mentioned earlier that the day wasn’t over and that his dad was going to take us somewhere that night. All I was told was that whatever it was we were about to see or be a part of only took place on Friday nights from 10 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning.
At exactly 9:30 p.m. Joe, Una and I jumped into Patrick’s car and he drove us into the night. 20 minutes or so later, we arrived in a village called Barrô, next to Águeda. As we got off the car, the first thing that greeted us was the scent of freshly-baked bread and sweet cinnamon in the air.
We found the door to what I initially thought was a warehouse building, but upon entering, I saw that it was, in fact, a bakery.
Two ladies were busy baking big loaves of bread to sell at the weekly Saturday market in Águeda the next day, including broa, a dense but moist Portuguese cornbread with a dark exterior. I could see the bread lined up in neat rows, baking inside the wood-fired oven behind them.
Locals were starting to walk in and lining up and I was immediately intrigued because I noticed the ladies take turns taking loaves of hot broa out of the oven with a wooden paddle as the orders came in and they proceeded to do this.
Thick slabs of butter on horizontally-cut bread, seasoned with cinnamon and sprinkled with a ton of sugar. We bought a loaf for 3 euros and brought it back home. The still-hot bread center was a gooey mess of salty butter, melted sugar and sugar granules that crunched under the teeth.
A Friday night treat of the most unexpected kind. I’m going to go ahead and quote Filipe, Joe’s best friend who said, “It’s best when you go at 2 a.m. when you’re drunk and hungry.”