Ibizan festive fare

An antipodean writer joins in with the festivities of the ancient tradition of the pig slaughter and sausage making

Women Travellers in Catalan Lands

The pig-killing is a family activity. Each household in a parish holds one in rotation, and local wealth is partly determined by the number of pigs fattened and killed. All the uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents assemble to help in the long day's work, and it is a social and festive occasion as well as necessity. At the matanses news and gossip are exchanged, marriages are made, and feuds begun or ended. This one was being held by a family who were to be among our new neighbours at the farm [...]

After sixteen kilometres or so, we left the “main” road to its potholes and crawled along a narrow cart-track [...]. We had seen no one at all on the road, and the whole countryside seemed desolate and deserted. It was the more astonishing, therefore, to come upon a scene of feverish activity at the farm. Nearly fifty people were at work, forming groups at trestle-tables scattered round the farmyard. The pigs, I was glad to see, were already dead, their throats having been cut ceremonially at sunrise by the men of the family. Two or three pigs annually is the average number for an Ibizan farm, but this was a comparatively wealthy family, and had killed five. [...]

For an hour or so I strolled about in a dream of fascination, watching the various activities. Everyone—men and women alike—wore a clean, new canvas apron, for it is a snobbery of the Ibizan housewife to throw away all the aprons after the matanses, and make dozens of new ones for the following year. One group, already spattered with blood, was slicing the meat from the bones with huge, sharp knives, ready for mincing.

A hundred yards away, under a giant algarrobo, or carob bean, tree, a cluster of women prepared the intestines to be used for sausage-skins. Quickly, skilfully, they eased a whole intestine on to a long cane and, when it was in place, turned it back upon itself, and inside out. Small girls stood by importantly with gourds of water to pour over each reversed intestine; when they had cleaned it thoroughly, they soaked it in orange juice to sweeten it. Near by, others were squirting fierce jets of urine from the five bladders (like the little boys in Andorra), and subjecting them to the same cleansing process. [...]

The kitchen stood among a group of outhouses, a gloomy little room with no windows—just a narrow shaft of light penetrating through the old, stone doorway. There was no stove, either, but a large, open fireplace on the stone floor in one corner. Here I joined a group of women who were preparing lunch for the fifty-odd guests. I was handed a spotless apron and a large knife, and began to chop up all the pork that could be spared from the making of the sausages. [...]

From time to time I stopped to dip my blood-stained hands into a bowl of water, and stepped from semi-darkness into sunlight to see what was going on. The ladies were still unravelling yard after endless yard of small intestine, while Malcolm turned the handle of a large machine, and transformed great chunks of meat into little curls of mince. But I soon controlled my curiosity, for every time I stopped to wash, the farmer's wife—with fifty mouths to feed, and a score of separate processes to supervise—glided forward with fresh hot water in a kettle and a clean towel. [...]

Meanwhile the farmer, together with one or two of the most experienced sausage-makers in the district, was preparing the sausage mixtures himself. This was the creative part of the day's work and, like the kneading of the dough for bread, is always done by men. Two enormous golden-brown earthenware dishes, as big as mill wheels, were brought out—one for the butifarra, one for the sobresada. Into the butifarra basin went all the livers and lungs, the gourds of blood, and the tough, minced-up hide of the pigs, together with great quantities of salt and pepper, and a dish of herbs and spices prepared the day before. The butifarra mixture, when safely in its skins, must be boiled before storing. The sobresada, which is eaten raw, contains all the solid meat minced fine and, as well as salt and spices, an enormous amount of red pepper, which preserves the sausage, and gives it its hectic and repellent colour. It was marvellous to see the farmer, arms bared to the shoulder, plunging them deep into the spongy orange substance, and heaving it over with all his strength.

Shirley Deane

A true globetrotting Australian, Shirley Deane (1920-2003) spent most of her life abroad. Born in Melbourne, she was the daughter of Ruth Marjorie Manning and Percival E. Deane, who was Private Secretary to Prime Minister William M. Hughes, besides holding other important offices. She taught English literature for seven years at Melbourne University, her alma mater, and became immensely popular as a radio broadcaster for the ABC, particularly after World War II, when she was known as  “Short Wave Shirl” on account of a programme she presented to the armed forces. In 1948 she married artist Anthony Underhill, and they moved to Europe, where in 1950 they settled with their son in a remote village in southern Italy. Her first travel book, Rocks and Olives (1954), recorded their experiences. The matrimony dissolved and in 1954 she married Malcolm Horsley, another Australian artist who also shared her love for travel. With their children they resided for some time in an Andalusian village she named “Pueblo” (a nickname for real-life Nerja, in Málaga), but the things Deane mentioned about it in Tomorrow is Mañana (1957) enraged the Francoist authorities so much that they were expulsed from Spain and sought refuge in Andorra. She died in France at 83. The Road to Andorra (1960), contains a superb account of the local Ibizan matances or pig-killings. These pagan rituals constituted, as Deane notes in the selected fragment, a family and community affair.

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