A 19th century watermill, unused for years, was turned into an oven for community use, in the parish of Vila de Punhe, in Viana do Castelo, to keep old knowledge alive and pass it on to new generations.
Salete Lima does not belong to the time when bread was baked in a wood oven, but it has been over 30 years since he learned that “old knowledge” that he would like to see passed on to the younger ones.
“The oven will be very useful, especially for children. For schools to take the children to the oven and show them how bread was made in the past. Today the kids don’t know”, said Salete Lima to the Lusa agency.
At 65, Salete is well aware of the “importance” of “passing” on to younger people the uses and customs of other times, were he not also the president of the Cantadeiras do Vale do Neiva association.
A group that sings songs in the chapel from the old Terras do Neiva, once sung by the populations on the banks of the river with the same name.
From the wood-fired oven that Salete Lima has at home in Vila de Punhe, come its “specialties”, corn bread and chorizo and bacon cakes, which the group sells in the fairs it carries out to raise funds.
“The flavor is totally different. It has nothing to do with what is done in electric or gas ovens”, he stressed.
At the beginning of the month, when the community oven was inaugurated, next to Parque do Bonfim, he lent his experience and helped to bake his “specialties” for the guests who gathered to see the new work in the parish.
The secret to good bread, he explains, “is the yeast time and a good oven, which burns slowly.”
It is necessary to avoid the “sighs” of the oven [deixar sair calor] so that the bread does not come out “taken, similar to the boroa de Avintes”.
In the past, the holes between the door and the oven stone, which allow such “sighs” were sealed “with animal dung”, but Salete Lima isolates the leaks “with ashes or bran mass”.
“For the bread to be good, the oven needs to be on fire for more than an hour and a half, cooking slowly”, she says, satisfied with the “idea” that the Parish Council had to transform “a dead space” into a place with a history for tell.
“The old watermills had no possible recovery. Now the community oven will come to life, transmitting knowledge and providing conviviality because it has a good picnic area”, he said.
The president of the Parish Council, António Costa, explained that the objective of transforming the old watermill into a community oven was to create “a space linked to the culture of its people, passing on the old knowledge to new generations”.
“As already happens with the Inácio mill, which we also recovered, the community oven will also receive visits from schools. Just recently, on one of those visits to the Inácio mill, the kids wanted to take the flour they had seen being ground to show their parents that the bread comes from the flour”, he said.
The socialist mayor said that the construction of the oven was the “destination” chosen by the executive given the impossibility of recovering the old watermill, donated to the municipality.
“The watermill was defaced in the 1980s, which made its recovery unfeasible. The entire stone building had been lined with cement. With the intervention we carried out, all the cement was removed, the original stone was exposed and the part that had bricks was covered with wood”, he specified.
António Costa added that, this month, a regulation to define the conditions of use of the oven by the community will be approved at the parish assembly.
“Use must be made upon prior registration. The Parish Council will provide firewood, electricity and water and cleaning the space. We will establish a symbolic fee to guarantee “responsibility” to whoever uses the equipment”, he explained.
The intervention, worth 20,000 euros, in addition to the community oven, “all equipped with crockery and cutlery”, included the construction, outside of a picnic area, with a grill and stone tables, and toilet facilities.
“The parish gains another space for family gatherings, among friends”, he pointed out, adding that the Parish Council is preparing a book to tell the story of the watermill and distribute it to those who visit the community oven.