walking on history, IX: garum

my first encounter with fish sauce (back in groningen via a vietnamese neighbour) might have been a bit rocky. i still remember him pouring the stuff on a hot wok and the unbelievable stench it would leave on the corridor as it evaporated… which sounds funny to me now, because i have to say, ten years later, it has kind of grown on me.

visiting the ruins of an ancient garum factory in the ria formosa, i wonder why the garum, the european equivalent of this fermented sauce, got lost in time.

in these stone tanks that are still around in quite a few places in portugal, fish bowels would be mixed with salt water and left to ferment and dry for several months. the resulting paste would be rich in protein and minerals — and probably just as stinky as it was umami. it was prized in roman cuisine where there are numerous records of its usage — poets even make jokes about its smell!

today, all that is left are these decaying tanks by the water… and some geek curiosity! :)


analogue wednesday #93

it’s time!


the solar towers

we noticed the towers on our first foray into seville, many months ago. they are striking in the distance, gleaming high above the rolling hills of the andalusian landscape. a bit of googling came up with a name, or a couple of them in fact: ps10 and ps20 solar power plants of sanlúcar la mayor.

so intrigued were we by this massive development, that we decided one day we would do a detour to check them out — i even put it on the 101 list. last week was the day we finally did it!

the concept is simple: an array of movable mirrors that reflect the sun into a tower. the mirrors (called heliostats) follow the sun in its path, to maximize the amount of light and heat transferred to the tower. the heat turns water into steam, which is then in turn converted into electricity. it also lights up a lot of dust and water in the air, making it look ethereal … and stinging the occasional animal that flies in the light’s path! :)

the towers produce 10 and 20MW respectively, but the whole complex, which includes the towers and three fields of (normal) solar panels nearby, is said to produce a total of 300 MW — enough to power a city the size of seville. pretty neat, right?

now that the spanish economy has crashed and solar panels’ prices have dropped, these heavily subsidised towers don’t seem to be the most efficient way to generate electricity any longer… still, they’re an impressive show of engineering and ingenuity, and i’m glad we did the detour to explore them! more of these adventures, please.


analogue wednesday #92

the view from cape st. vicent at sunset.


hiking in sw algarve

hiking on the west coast is different from hiking on the hills around here. there’s the sea, obviously, but it’s the cliffs that make it all somewhat more adventurous, a little bit more challenging. there’s a lot more wind too — and colours!

the photos are from a sunny day last november. seems like the only time we go that way is when the sweet potato festival is on in aljezur… but i’ll tell you about that in another post! :)