Puerto de Avila, Spain
It was dark and I was aware that there was a witchy type of person at the front of the room who was making frightening cackling sounds. I have said frequently in my blog posts that I can never anticipate where I will come across a food history experience and this experience was to be a perfect example. I was volunteering to be an English conversational coach at a language school in Spain, just prior to the life changing Coronavirus taking charge. We were in a small, old stone building in the countryside by our historic hotel.
Our group of 19 Spaniards and 19 international Anglo volunteers were about to experience the traditional ritual of sharing Queimada- the Drink of Blue Fire.
This ancient tradition is known to have originated in the far northwest corner of Spain, an area known as Galicia. This area was settled by the Celts who were known to believe in witches, (meigas), magic and evil spirits. They practiced the ritual of serving Queimada to ward off evil spirits. Unfortunately, as we learned one short week after the experience, it does not ward off evil viruses from the world.
This drink was traditionally mixed in a clay pot that is glazed inside and has a set of small clay cups for serving. It was also made in carved out pumpkins in the past. The mixture is put in the pot and lit on fire, creating a blue flame. A Spell, known as Conxuro is recited while the drink burns and the flame is put out before the drink is served.
Our witch was Carlota Romero who was the Master of Ceremonies at our language school. She is a skilled actress, language teacher, public speaking coach and one of the most energetic, dynamic people I have ever met. But she seemed too sincere to be acting.
Bit by bit she added ingredients while reading the chant. Or at least ingredients to represent the creatures in the spell.
Baby Eagles, owls, toads and witches
Demons, goblins and devils, spirits of the snowy valleys.
Crows, salamanders and witches, quack spell
Hollow and rotten seeds, caves of worms and reptiles.
Fire of the pitiful souls, hexes, black magic, odour of the dead,
Thunder and lightening.
Barking of the dogs, proclamation of death; snout of the satyr and rabbit’s foot.
Sharp tongue of the bad women married to old men.
Hell of Satan and Beelzebub, fire of burning corpses,
Mutilated bodies of the wretched, farts from eternal asses,
Roars from the stormy sea.
Useless wombs of unmarried women, the sound of cats in heat, piles of dirty hair from deformed goats.
With this ladle I will raise the flames of this fire which seem like those of hell,
And the Witches will take the sky on their brooms, going to bathe on the beach of the Fat Sands.
Hear,Hear! The howls of those blasphemous witches who, upon drinking the grain alcohol for self-purification, cannot help but bar the burning in their innards.
And when this brew goes down our throats, we will be free from the evil in our souls, And from witchcraft.
Forces of the air, land, sea and fire to you I call: it is true that you have more power than that of
Human beings and you are here and now, bring the spirits of absent friends here with us to join us in this “Queimada”.
During the chanting of the spell, she made frightening sounds and added orange peel to represent cats and crying babies. Coffee beans were insects and goat’s hair, the hair from a surprised onlooker, mixing it all in. In the dark, it was difficult to believe it wasn’t all real.
She lit the mixture on fire and skillfully ladled it into the air above her, chanting the spell.
The incantation had worked it’s magic as we all sat spellbound in the dark and when the lights came on, and the mixture was served in the small clay cups, we could only drink it and hoped that we lived. And we all lived.
The sharing of Queimada has become a tradition still practiced at family gatherings and social events in Spain. Here is one interpretations of the recipe.
Queimada – The Galician Drink of Blue Fire
This drink should be mixed on a flame proof surface.
- 1 liter of ORUJO ( a Spanish liqueur made of the skins and pits of grapes)
- 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
- rind of 1 lemon cut into strips – orange slices can be added as well.
- 1/3 cup of coffee beans
- Dissolve the sugar and 4 tbsp. of ORUJO to a glass.
- Pour the rest of the ingredients into the clay pot.
- Pour the mixture from the glass into a ladle and light on fire.
- Move the ladle slowly toward the pot until the entire drink is on fire.
- Stir frequently until flames turn blue or lift ladle for more drama
- Put a lid on the pot to stop flame.
- Serve in small clay cups.
Enjoy a sip of Spain’s Past.