Chanfana week in Vila Nova de Poiares

The Chanfana Wars

For those who don’t already know, chanfana is a rich stew made from goat meat and red wine, mainly. Personally, I don’t care for it but then I’m a bit squeamish about finding icky bits in my meat. I like to know what I’m putting in my mouth and such a dark stew is far too unpredictable for my liking.

However, that’s just my opinion. Around these parts, it’s incredibly popular, to the point of an annual ‘Chanfana Week’ being held when all the restaurants in town compete to see who can dish up the tastiest chanfana. A chanfana committee with its own special hats and gowns exists to judge the competition and maintain standards.

The grassy Poiares park dotted with brightly-painted goats dressed up in lace or army camouflage pays further homage to this pride-inducing meal.

Chanfana goats in Raça Poiarense Park, Vila Nova de Poiares

Decorated goats in Raça Poiarense Park, Vila Nova de Poiares

What doesn’t appear to have been established is the exact location of the ‘Universal Capital of Chanfana‘, a claim which has appeared on the billboards advertising ‘Chanfana Week’ in both Vila Nova de Poiares and the nearby Miranda do Corvo.

Rivalry is high between these communities, and the other two municipalities which lay claim to chanfana: Góis and Lousã. Some locally-loved recipes are derided by other chanfana towns because, for example, they advocate the use of pork lard. Purists wouldn’t dream of using anything but goat-related products.

Portugal has recently voted on its Seven Gastronomical Wonders and although chanfana was shortlisted for the best meat dish category, it was beaten by leitão (suckling pig). Clearly disappointed at this crushing blow, a representative from one of the chanfana towns was quick to point the finger of blame in the letters page of a regional newspaper. Apparently, not only were the sample dishes served cold to the judges but the dish was brought into disrepute by the promotional campaign. I can see where he’s coming from on this one.

I have to admit I was baffled when offered a ‘chanfanix’ at my local restaurant as an incentive to vote for chanfana as a national dish. When I asked what it was, the waitress shyly informed me that it was a condom. Not being fluent in Portuguese and unable to spot the connection between goat stew and contraception, I googled the word but found nothing to enlighten me.

Call me prudish if you like, but if someone tried to promote my favourite food with condoms I wouldn’t be best pleased either.