Melide, the sweet heart of Galicia

Melindres, ricos and almond almendrados are an important part of the gastronomic identity of this village

Melindres, ricos e almendrados, referente na repostería tradicional de Melide.
Melindres.

The traditional Galician pastry has one of its pillars in Melide. Its well-known melindres and almendrados, and its genuine ricos, are three star products and an important part of the gastronomic identity of village located in A Coruña, a few kilometres from the geographic centre of the community.

The care for tradition, the wise choice of raw materials and the affection with which the different pastry families of the town have made the product for several generations are the key to maintaining and consolidating their top quality artisan products. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that visiting Melide is discovering the sweet heart of Galicia.

Today, there are 8 establishments’ inheritors of their respective family traditions, a practice that began in private homes but gradually passed from the kitchens of Melidense homes to artisan workshops. For this reason, a walk by the downtown streets can become the most tempting challenge for people who love twelve.

“What we did in the workshops was to collect the legacy of the recipes that were made at home,” explains Alberto Rodríguez, head of the Pastelería Estilo, one of the establishments located in the historic area of ​​Melide. At 47 years old, he is the fifth generation of a family saga dedicated to the artisanal elaboration of traditional Melide pastries. Over time, this activity has undergone some changes, but always respecting the essence and tradition.

Famous almedrados and melindres, but unknown ricos

The strategic location of Melide, as a crossroad, has a lot of weight along the history and traditions of the village. Place of celebration of markets and fairs, stop of the pilgrims who go to Santiago by the French Way or the Primitive Way and old conventual location; It does not seem strange that we are talking about a reference of the confectionery and a good place to taste other products such as octopus or cheese.

With so much dynamism and commercial activity, nor is it surprising that foreign ingredients such as almonds would reach latitudes like these. A nut that, beginning to appear on the most refined tables of Galicia – it was a distinctive element in the after-dinner tables of well-to-do houses since at least the sixteenth century – became popular in the second half of the nineteenth century, when traditional Galician gastronomy took form. For example, we can find almendrados in Melide, but also in other Galician towns such as Allariz (but with some differences in their preparation).

Of all Melide’s pastries, the melindre is undoubtedly the most famous one. This kind of bagel made from wheat flour, cow butter, egg and sugar is a local icon and rare is the case of the person who stops or visits the village and does not leave with a package in hand. “The almendrado was always closely linked to the fairs,” explains Alberto Rodríguez; who remembers that his great-grandmother already sold her own elaborations in these kind of markets. It was the generations after that of this enterprising woman who opened an office to sell a product that, today, succeeds as a tourist attraction.

The ricos (a kind of cookies made with flour, eggs and cow butter) are the most unknown sweets, but the only genuine ones in this town. Alberto Rodríguez explains that, although local customers know about this unique product, it is necessary to extend its promotion in order to make them more popular.

Respect for tradition and raw materials: the keys

For Alberto Rodríguez, pastry of Melide is a “food craft” work and, in that sense, defends his work respecting the recipe and inherited tradition and “respecting the raw material”. Thus, he remembers that the activity is also and immaterial heritage closely linked to popular culture.

Regarding the recipes, remember that each business has its little peculiarities: “If we were to do a blind tasting with different melindres, I would find that there is a common base, but also a house brand”, explains the Melidense, who insists that artisan work is present throughout the entire production process.

The key is, therefore, the choice of the best raw material. In the specific case of eggs, Rodríguez is committed to the proximity product, which combines sanitary guarantees and maximum freshness. To achieve it, he has worked for many years with a local farmer: “The egg is a living product that evolves. If the egg is fresh, the yolk separates very well from the white and has a quantity of protein that, when mixed, allows me to generate a type of product that gives a specific texture”, explains.

The artisan also gives the example of butter, preferring the one made with clarified cow’s milk. In this sense, it recognizes the great effort that some Galician producers are making when working, generating a raw material that is essential for the production of traditional sweets.

Thus, he warns of the dangers of deviating from tradition and the genuine recipe: “If, for example, we do not respect the rich itself, and that traditional butter flavour in Galician pastries … These are flavours that are in danger of extinction”.

Alberto Rodríguez warns of the dangers of deviating from the recipe: “If we do not respect the rich one itself, and that traditional flavour of butter in Galician pastries … These are flavours that are in danger of extinction”

Past, present and future

The activity has changed a lot from the times in which Alberto’s great-grandmother attended the fair with her homemade melindres. Nowdays, the family has an artisan establishment on the central Progreso street that, in recent decades, has been registering some growth. It was her grandmother who started the sale in the store, but as a complementary activity to the cafeteria that her husband had: “Today, the pastry business has its own identity”, points out.

The ways of consumption have also evolved in these years: from sweets linked to specific moments or celebrations, to a powerful tourist attraction.

Catro establecementos unen esforzos a través da Asociación de Repostería Tradicional Melide Terra Doce.
Melindres, almendrados and ricos.

The point that has not changed over the years are love and respect for tradition. Four of the traditional businesses in the town have created the Melide Terra Doce Traditional Pastry Association, which is currently chaired by the manager of the Estilo pastry shop. “We start from the same common idea: the product is good because the recipe is good. So we work so that the customer is not misrepresented or deceived”, explains Alberto Rogdríguez.

He also thinks in the future and, from his personal point of view, it us necessary to achieve “dignify the profession”. “We would like to be able to live from this in a dignified way: viable and stable” concludes the craftsman.

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