The Barreiro da Faneca
Shrine to Our Lady of Fatima

Ruth: Oh my, I ate too much, again! Eating in the Azores is quite simple and affordable as long as you want to eat when the locals do. It’s much more challenging to find a meal between 3:00 and 6:30 pm. Our bike rides often end in this window. Ideally we find a cafe serving a noon meal (a prato do dia) along our route, or we have a sweet snack and zoom back to town to catch the last serving of a  prato. The evening meal is not served until 7:00, which really doesn’t work for us. 
What is even more challenging in the Azores is finding and eating healthy food.  For most of our trip we have had a kitchen to cook in, but on Santa Maria we are dining out. Most of the meals served in restaurants come with potatoes (usually french fries) and rice (because you really need both), and a huge portion of fish or meat. Vegetables are rarely included. When I say huge, I mean that one meal split between Gord and I is loads for us after a full day of cycling. If you haven’t been cycling up and down mountains all day this type of diet might not be a good idea. 
Bruno, our guide who keeps popping  up at different museums that we visit,  told us that until fairly recently most families lived on simple soups with only a small bit of meat in the broth for flavour. I suspect that recent memories of scarcity have led to the over generous servings we see each day. 
Generosity with food plays a long and important role in the culture and religion of Santa Maria. When families have their prayers answered they pay their debt back to the Holy Spirit by holding a party where they make enough Sopa do Santo Espírito to feed everyone on the island. Santo Espírito festivals date back to the 13th century in Portugal , and they are alive and well in the Azores. In Santa Maria almost every  village has a dedicated rectangular building where the soup is made and served. Most years there are at least 5 of these festivals. Bruno told us that each of these festivals requires five to twelve cows, so they are obviously well attended. 
On Monday we cycle into the mountainous half of the island to stay in a house with a kitchen. I can’t wait to prepare a huge salad and a veggie ratatouille. 

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