My father, Carlos Ferreira, the founder of the group of restaurants that bear the our name, was born and raised in the small municipality of Estarreja, in the Aveiro district of Portugal. We went with him to visit the house he grew up in and to discover the origins of his passion for quality food. This final stop on my #PortugalGourmand trip allowed me to better understand the roots of my father’s culture and his passion for home-grown products.
In the morning, we began by taking a walk around the village market, seeking ingredients to prepare a feast for my father’s childhood friends that evening. Fresh fish, tomatoes, cheese… our provisions looked mouth-watering. At one stand, we even ended up buying a young olive tree that we planted in the courtyard of our ancestral home later that day.
While cooking my grandmother’s dishes with my father in this enchanting country house, I realized that, to us, food was more than just a reason to get together. Every meal was a beautiful reason to thank the land for its gifts. It was a privilege for me to cook at the same stove as my grandmother, particularly considering that the little kitchen was once forbidden territory for children.
With a touch of nostalgia, my father explained to me how the family used to be self-sufficient, living off the land. While the tomato rice was cooking, he showed me the cellar where they used to age wine. Just beside the cellar was an enclosure for pigs, and behind it, a huge courtyard full of fruit trees.
After emigrating from there to Canada as a teenager, it was this family legacy of eating well that pushed young Carlos to found an embassy for good Portuguese products in Montreal. Now located on Peel Street and carrying the family name, this embassy is Ferreira, Canada’s Portuguese centre of gastronomic excellence. Who could have guessed that this young man who immigrated to Québec in the 1980s would go from bread delivery man to visionary and owner of one of the best restaurants in Canada?
As dusk fell, we grilled sardines and opened our best bottles, and my father and his friends told us stories of their childhood in this inner courtyard covered in vines and goodwill.