The wind brings me to an island lost in the Mediterranean. Crystalline water surrounds me and I can see through the wonderful seabed. Colorful fishes swim next to me, the white fine sand warms me up, a kind breeze caresses me and I find myself surrounded by yellow-blue butterflies. Green fills my iris, the underwood smell captures my senses and the cicadas sound bewitches me. It could have been a desire or a dream, but fortunately this is reality in Minorca, the island of wind.
An authentic Eden, Minorca astonishes me not only with its incredible landscapes and the amazing wildlife but also because it is rich with history and emotional traditions. Ancient peoples colonized the island leaving interesting remains of their civilization like Talayots: tower-shaped stoned structures which function is still unknown.
During the 18th century the island was first settled by the English and then by the French who brought habits from their cultures. The deep link with history is evident in the popular celebrations like the Sant Joan festivity. Originally religious, this commemoration is today one of the most important cultural events thanks to the medieval games – Jocs des Pla – where knights riding Minorcan horses defy each other in the crowd. Thousands of people watch riding horses, some brave ones even try to touch them. The atmosphere is vibrant! In Ciutadella people open their house doors and prepare banquets on the streets where it is possible to taste authentic local delicacies. Here, apart from cheese and sausages, you can enjoy the pomada, a typical long drink made with lemonade and the famous Minorcan gin Xoriguer. Once in Ciutadella, I’m involved in a nut battle: l’Avellanada. At first I think you should throw nuts to friends only, but then I notice nuts coming from everywhere and the fight begins!!!
Minorca is not only a natural paradise but also a gastronomic one! Did you know that Mayonnaise was created on this island? During the 7 Year’s War, French troops attacked the English Marlborough fortress next to the Mahon harbor. The French defeated the English and to celebrate it they organized a huge banquet. In the menu there was a delicate sauce expressly created for the occasion by a chef of the French Crown. The two basic ingredients of this new delicacy were olive oil and eggs. The new sauce was called Mahonnaise in honor of the victory at the Mahon harbor.
Minorca’s flavors are strong and intense. How to resist the authentic sausages, the famous Mahon cheese and the renowned pastries? During my visit to the small town of Binibequer, I could relish a genuine treat: el cuixot. It is made by mixing pork remains with blood and spices like cinnamon.
In the shop windows, on the markets stands, on Minorcan’s tables it is impossible not to find an interesting squared and paprika coloured cheese: the Mahon cheese. Semi-hard to hard, this dairy product is traditionally elaborated with raw cow milk.
During my stay in Menorca, I visited S’arangí, a dairy farm in Es Mercadal producing cheeses, delicious marmalades and appetizing sausages. The owner welcomed me just during the elaboration of theMahon cheese. Cow milk is poured into big tanks where rennet is added. Once coagulated, the solid part of the milk is placed on a huge cotton cloth called fogasser. The dough is pressed many times and left to drain in order to eliminate the excess whey. The cotton cloth is then tied with a string called lligam which gives the cheese its authentic shape. Once pressed, the cheese is immersed in salty water and is subsequently left to mature in special rooms. It is important to grease it periodically with olive oil and paprika that gives the cheese its peculiar color.
Before leaving Minorca I visited Ca’s Sucrer, one of the historical pastry shops of the island. Once I entered the shop I’ve been attracted by the bar that was full of ensaimadas, a typical Balearic snail-shaped pastry made with pork lard called saïm. The ensaimada can be empty or filled with all sorts of delicacies like chocolate, sobrasada (a sausage made with pork meat, paprika and salt) and cabello de angel, a delicious pumpkin jam. Of course I tasted all of them, how good!!!