I’m going to the booth and I can see that Andreia is smiling at me from afar. And she comments to her neighbour: „Do you know that I was in Poland without leaving Terceira?”
Andreia is a very nice owner of a booth with local delicacies in Biscoitos. Third booth, counting from the bathing area. Everyone knows her there. They come to her to buy boiled corn, caramels, roasted peanuts or donuts. And for a good word and a smile that she gladly shares with everyone.
I met her over three years ago. She always greets me with a smile and asks me how I feel.
This time she’s noticing me and commenting to her neighbor: „Do you know that I was in Poland without leaving Terceira?” And she’s saying that one day a tourist came to her and said that they knew her in Poland. And he showed her a photo of her that I shared on the Facebook and on the Instagram.
„See, you are famous in Poland!” – I’m starting to laugh.
And I’m gettting an idea to interview Andreia. And write an article based on it. In the article you can say a lot more than in a short post on social media. So I’m going there on Monday morning with a list of questions and a charged phone, and I’m asking what she thinks about this idea. There is a mixture of joy and embarrassment on Andrea’s face. We’re sitting on the steps in front of the booth and starting talking.
How did it start?
13 years ago Andreia went to the Feast of Emigrants (a large party in the center of Terceira) to sell boiled corn. But it was almost constantly raining, so she didn’t sell everything. Her dad gave her an idea that she could go with this sweet corn to the bathing area in Biscoitos. „Maybe you’re lucky there,” he said.
And she was lucky.
Andreia went to the bathing area in Biscoitos and stayed there. At the beginning, she shared her booth with a few men who didn’t quite accept a woman who’d be a business owner. They had some frictions, but in the end they learned to function with each other.
Each of them was selling their own products. Andreia started with boiled corn, coscorões (one of the traditional carnival sweets) and roasted peanuts in caramel. With time, she added more products: pickles, vegetables and fruits from her garden, cupcakes. After about 5-6 years, she began selling donuts, which everyone loves so much today.
With time, she also stayed alone in the booth, without the men that I mentioned earlier. The only men who occasionally appear in her booth on the salesman’s side are her husband and son.
Business was developing slowly
First, Biscoitos residents would come to Andrea. Satisfied, they talked about her products to their friends. Gradually, therefore, more and more inhabitants of the island began to appear at her booth. They came to Biscoitos for a walk, to spend a free afternoon with their family. They were glad that they could snack something good.
Tourism was also gradually developing on the island. The number of tourists was increasing from year to year until 2019. (Although Andreia says that the best year in terms of business for her was 2018). Whoever arrives on the island is delighted with its beauty, lush greenery, blue sky and ocean. And they want to come back, they want to visit other islands. „More and more people are discovering our paradise in the middle of the ocean,” says Andreia.
And what can you discover in Andrea’s booth?
For me, Andrea’s booth is a cornucopia. There are plenty of goodies from Terceira and those that are eaten on Terceira. What does it mean? That next to the traditional Terceira cupcake Dona Amélia there’s an American donut, also loved by the inhabitants of the island.
Hungry people skip this part.
At Andrea’s booth you’ll find all the „gifts of the earth”: potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, garlic, plums, apples, bananas, watermelons, passion fruit, oranges, tangerines… There are different fruiting seasons on the Azores, so something fresh can be found at any time of the year.
For lovers of salty snacks, there are different types of peanuts (e.g. with garlic), fried pain, chips, boiled corn, rissóis (a type of dumplings with filling, baked or deep-fried), empadas (something like stuffed patties).
If you like sweet snacks, you’ll find at Andrea’s traditional Terceira cupcakes Donas Amélias, a whole selection of other cupcakes (e.g. coconut, almond or… bean), peanuts with caramel or cinnamon, American donuts with sugar or icing, cakes, tarts or cookies – cinnamon, lemon, coconut and other . There are also filhadinhos – typical sweets from Alentejo.
And of course, caramelos, or caramels, could not be missing. For the islanders it’s a taste of their childhood. Sweets their grandmother used to make when other sweets were not available. Caramels are difficult to prepare, Andreia herself says that she had many failed attempts. The results of the first attempts landed in the garbage. Until she learned. Today, both children and adults are happy to leave her booth with their package of caramels.
A little bit of the carnival
Andreia also shares the taste of the Terceira carnival with locals and tourists. Carnival on Terceira is celebrated much more than Christmas. Various traditions and snacks are associated with it. The most important out of the food are three types of sweets: filhoses do forno filled with lemon pudding, filhoses fritas – with a taste similar to donuts, and coscorões – they resemble Polish faworki, they are thin and crunchy. Everyone eats them during the carnival.
Finally, Andreia also prepares pickles and other products enclosed in jars. You can find honey from local bees. Pickles from sea fennel, boiled quail eggs and various vegetables. Massa de malagueta, or hot pepper sauce, which is one of the most popular hot spices on the island.
Andreia also makes jams: fig, blackberry, grape, sweet potato, zucchini, strawberry guava or the hot pepper jam (doce de malagueta) that I love. When I fly to Poland, I always take it for my sister. It tastes delicious with toast and queijo fresco, which is fresh cheese. This cheese cannot be transported, you have to come here for it!
Hungry people can start reading again.
Where do the product ideas come from?
I’m asking Andreia where she gets ideas for products from. She begins to laugh: „From my crazy head.” She says she wants her clients to be satisfied. That’s why she checks what they like and what they come back for. Boiled corn and donuts have been the most popular for years, but other products also have their customers.
Who goes to the beach, eagerly visits Andreia’s booth, whether it’s in the morning or in the afternoon. There are also a lot of people who go on Sunday walks with their family. During holidays, parties or touradas (of which there are a lot in Terceira in „normal”, non-pandemic time) Andreia also doesn’t complain about the lack of customers – everyone „catches” something on their way.
Girl, when do you sleep??
I’m asking Andreia what her typical day looks like. She’s telling me: „In the summer we are here from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., sometimes longer. If I see that there are still many people, I stay. After closing the booth, I go shopping and start preparing cakes, cupcakes, etc. I go to bed around 22:30 and in the morning I get up to finish my preparations. I make donuts in the morning, so that they are fresh.” I’m asking what „morning” means to her. The response is: „Now there are fewer people than usually, so during the week it’s enough to get up at 5 a.m. During the weekend I get up at 2 a.m. to make sure I manage to prepare everything.” Seeing my eyes opened in astonishment, she’s replying with a laugh: „If you see me having such tiny eyes, it means I slept for three hours.”
She admits it’s her bread and butter, but it’s also her life.
Everyone has to work in some way. And she’s lucky to do what she likes. She likes to bake, prepare treats, she likes to talk to people. And people like her and her snacks. And they always come back. Now the hard time has come for everyone on the island. Even so, Andreia still spreads good energy. And she repeats that we must look to the future with hope. Because if we break down, what will we be left with?
I’m nodding, because what should I answer? I’m asking if winter is so exhausting too.
She’s saying that she has more time to rest in winter. While in the summer she works 7 days a week, in the winter she opens the booth only on weekends and holidays. Then she can sleep well. And prepare caramels one day, roasted nuts on the second day, crisps on the third day, muffins and donuts on Friday and on Saturday morning, etc. During winter she also has time to prepare pickles. It’s time for her to take a deep breath before the next summer season.
Why do you have to visit Terceira?
I’m leaving the topic of the booth and asking Andreia which island she likes the most. She’s replying: „For me Terceira is the most beautiful. I would be lying if I said something else. We must appreciate what’s ours.” I’m asking her what’s so special about Terceira. She’s answering me: „The beauty of nature, greenery, nice, hospitable people who are happy to share what they have. And as you know, they invite you home even if they don’t know you. Tourists arrive, are delighted, repeat >>how beautiful!<< and that they must come here again. They are delighted with the blue ocean, transparent water, under which you can see rocks, lapas (limpets), fish… This is a unique place.”
I;m asking if she’d like to add something, she recommend something to tourists visiting Terceira. In response, I hear: „I could name a thousand places that are worth seeing. But whoever comes here will see that it’s a paradise in the middle of the ocean. And will be delighted. Maybe I’ll just say: Terceira is a unique place, a beautiful island full of beautiful people. Enjoy it when you get here. And always visit me!”