He started almost 20 years ago, before he was a farmer. Today he wants nothing else, he feels at home in that space. He doesn't plant wheat, he doesn't need to — farmers in the region bring theirs to grind and when there's more, it's already turned into flour.
Moinho de Santana
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Teresa Vivas, Mesa Cultura Gastronónica
Texto de Tiago Pais
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We are facing a well-disposed miller. He introduces himself as “Francisco da Gama, cousin of Vasco”. From the famous sailor? "No, from my cousin Vasco." The good mood continues inside the small cubicle that, seen from the outside, no one would say is a watermill. And, it’s not one, it's two: one for wheat and one for corn. The stories and the smile come out of him with the same ease with which he moves the millstones to transform the raw material that arrives there into flour. The mill, he warns at the outset, is not even his property, but his brother João Zé's. However, in Santana and its surroundings — a land where many residents claim that the best bread on the island is made — everyone recognizes him as the leading authority in the art of milling.
He started almost 20 years ago, before he was a farmer. Today he wants nothing else, he feels at home in that space. He doesn't plant wheat, he doesn't need to — farmers in the region bring theirs to grind and when there's more, it's already turned into flour. At home, he also only uses his flour. “Once I let it run out and bought flour from the supermarket to make some pancakes. When I tasted that, I couldn't even eat it, I had to feed it to the pigs”, he says between smiles. He sells flour at 2€/kg. "Some people say it's expensive, but those who know it's good, pay and that's it."
It won't be expensive especially if the price includes a conversation with this miller-entertainer. One of his favourite numbers is to play a game with those who visit him for the first time: he bets that, even without seeing, he can guess when the flour will stop coming out of the sieve, which is on the opposite side of the crank that is turning. Bet won. Then, there he denounces himself—points to the small rearview mirror of a motorcycle hanging from the ceiling. “I see everything there”. And he smiles. Once again.