James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Hell Yeah, Wine and Bananas for Christmas!

Hell Yeah, Wine and Bananas for Christmas!

Moscatel in Braga

On the afternoon of December 24th, I was walking down Rua do Souto, a medieval-era street in Braga, Portugal, when I noticed a large crowd. One thing in particular caught my eye: a man holding a glass of wine in one hand and a banana in the other. The people around him were doing the same thing.

A glass of Moscatel with a banana is a Braga tradition that goes back around 30 years. At first, the Casa das Bananas was merely a warehouse for storing bananas from the island of Madeira until they ripened enough for delivery or wholesaling. The owner, to woo new customers, set up an improvised counter to sell glasses of Moscatel, produced in Setúbal by José da Maria Fonseca. Eventually, some of his wine-drinkers asked for something to “comfort the stomach”—a Portuguese expression for something to eat—so he would serve them, naturally, bananas. It may seem like an odd pairing, but the super-sweet Moscatel goes well with chunks of tasty banana.

Some of the owner’s friends started stopping by Casa das Bananas on Christmas Eve for a glass and a banana, and to wish their friends a Merry Christmas before heading home for dinner. The tradition grew, and now every December 24th, the Rua do Souto swells with people clutching bananas and a glass of golden wine for the annual Bananeiro toast.

The Bananeiro has become immensely popular, and the line to buy wine and bananas is huge, so people have started bringing their own bottles and bananas. Now, before people head home to celebrate Christmas, they celebrate the afternoon by getting drunk. One glass of Moscatel is never enough.

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