30 August 2011

Flog it Almocageme Style

It's incredible to realise that a year has flashed past and last Sunday 28 August was the 2011 Cortejo e Oferendas e Leilao in Almocageme (the fruit and vegetable auction).  For our second visit we were more organised (we thought).  Last year we took the bus thinking parking would be difficult and had to leave ages before the end, so this time we drove up and parked close to the square about 3.00pm which was the scheduled start time.  However, this being Portugal, things were still being organised so we chose to have a coffee in the coffee bar that gave a good view of the action whilst we waited for the start.

Nice coffee house (not on the actual day as it was much busier than this)

About 4.00pm we moved over to the square as the ritual of microphone testing had begun and out of the fire station rumbled the most beautiful 1950's fire appliance closely followed by a truck similarly attired with green branches,and set off down the main street to make the tour of the village through the one way system, up the main road and back down to the centre collecting other little trucks en route.  After about 20 minutes the procession of trucks led by the fire engine, made their way slowly and carefully into the laid out square ready for the start of the auction.  Each vehicle carries items from a particular area and they are sold in sequence.

Returning to the main square

Approaching the square

Side view of appliance

Goodies on board

One of the trucks

And another one

We moved into the main body of the square to get our seats and to check out the other vehicles and, of course, the bar/cake area.  It was a lovely day and it was noticeable that we were the only people who chose to sit in full sun - the portuguese choosing to shift their chairs out of the full sun leaving us rather exposed as the foreigners.

Cakes to the left, beers to the right

English in the sun, locals in the shade

The fire engine was unloaded first with all the goodies being placed onto a table in front of the bandstand and the same auctioneer as last year, who is excellent fun with great banter and teasing of the crowd, obviously knowing the majority personally.

Goodies being arranged ready for sale

As all the items are donated by invdividuals from the villages, they are sold village by village.  The auctioneer reads out the name of the donor and then whips up the crowd for bidding.  He has a helper to point out any bids he might miss, although the normal procedure for this appears to be whistling or yelling for attention.  After each vehicle's contents have been sold, the total for each village is read out and cheered. 

This year there was an abundance of pumpkins, melons, pears, apples, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, onions, plaits of garlic, potatoes, dried beans, along with ducks, chickens, pigeons, cactii and other plants, wine, spirits, port, liqueurs, handbags, pictures, storage pots, champagne and sparking wines, cold box, cheese, homemade jam, grapes, copper jug, beer, large cake, traditional cakes, hampers and candles.

The pumpkins ranged from round to oblong, small, medium and large as in this photo.  This monster that took two men to pick it up, weighed 60 kilos and was sold for 11 euros to the great amusement of the crowd.

This beauty that need two strong firemen to lift it

I desperately wanted to buy the two ducks to release them into the river by us, by was prevented so they went for 10 euros for the pair.  The pigeons were bought by people who then released them up into the sky to rounds of applause which was a lovely moment.

The two ducks - fear not, the one in the bag is alive

He thought this was a great auction buy, she was not so certain

Bidding got rather heated when the alcohol appeared.  There was a great selection of reds from the Douro, Alentejo and Colares as well as the white jug variety.  Most went from between 5 and 8 euros a pair of bottles, the white, obviously not quite as popular either went for the same price or less.  The wine from Colares, an expensive wine normally, was rather interesting to watch.  We picked us this bottle for 7 euros (75cl) but the others went for between 15 and 25 euros.  Some to the owner of the local grocery store.

Our bottle of 1997 Colares wine

Interestingly it seemed to be our senior ladies who went for the sparkling wines.  One lady near us managed to get one bottle of sparkling and one of champagne and then went on to successfully bid for a rather nice pink, embroidered bag to put them in.  She was beaming merrily as she set off with her bargains.  Another senior lady went off with a very nice green, wicker bag which she showed off to her friends around the fountain for admiration.

One young girl was desperate to get her hands on a cactus and the first batch went without any success for her.  Suddenly whilst she was busy talking to her parents, another pair came up for auction.  They shoved her forward and a lovely man at the side, stopped bidding to enable her to get them for 5 euros.  She was estactic. 

The young girl trying to bid for her cactii
Amusingly there were two instances of couples bidding for the same item because they were so intent on bidding that they had not realised their partner next to them, also had their hand up.  Friends bid against friend but all in a lovely, friendly way, and in some cases you could see people divving up their spoils between bags in the time honoured 'one for you, one for me' tradition.

As the sun started to go down, so the pigeons started to swoop over the square and the temperature dropped and cardigans and fleeces appeared.  Next year, we must remember to bring one!

Pigeons flying over the square

About 8.00pm the auctioneer stepped down in after a strenuous couple of hours and handed over to one of the firemen to continue with the remaining two trucks.  By this time the light was starting to go so the firemen brought out a very flash floodlight.  It looked like a plastic bag on a stand, but then it slowly inflated until it shone brightly on the proceedings.

The inflatable floodlight

We left shortly after the floodlight went up due to being somewhat chilly.  Next year - cardigans and jumpers for bidding after 8.00pm.

So here are some of our bargains.  We also picked up 6 bottles of red wine for 15 euros and a bottle of Grants Whisky for 6 euros. A cool box, brand new, for 6 euros.

Tomatoes - 6 euros for the whole box

8 euros for these beauties

So for the next few days I will be featuring tomatoes and onions in my cooking.  Tomato Jam, Gazpacho soup, Tomato Sauce, Onion jam, French Onion Soup........

Next year, must remember - get there early to park and get chair in shade and bring a cardigan or fleece for the evening.  Can't wait.

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