Much like Queen Isabella relieved the famine of the Azores in the 14th century, the Brotherhood of the IDES will soon feed the hungry of their local community.
In keeping with the 140-year-old tradition of the Holy Ghost Festival, the IDES Society began the 2-day process Thursday morning of cooking more than 7,500 lbs of round chuck roast that will be served free of charge Sunday afternoon.
“We made a commitment 300 years ago to continue this tradition,” said IDES Society President John Furtado. “We get all walks of life coming here to eat.”
With sweltering steam emanating from the broiling ovens, more than a dozen men worked together to prepare the meat that will be served for any festival attendee or passerby that desires a plate.
Led by head cook Tony Lourenco, the meat is cooked, sliced, marinated and the cooked again in a special recipe that has been used for years. But don’t think about asking for the recipe: the sauce is a secret of the IDES.
“There’s not really a recipe, these guys just know it,” Furtado said. “It’s the hidden recipe.”
Lourenco, also known to fellow cookers as the Godfather, carefully marinated the meat while others pulled the roast from the ovens and men hauled meat into trays to be cooked.
The organized chaos seemed routine to many of the men who have carried on this custom for many years.
“For what we do as far as feeding people for free, it’s unique,” Furtado said.
The tradition of feeding the community dates back to the first Half Moon Bay Holy Ghost Festival in 1871.
“This was here when Main Street was dirt and gravel and buggies,” Furtado said.
Furtado has been involved with IDES since childhood. As a kid, Furtado would watch his father and uncles give back to the community and this inspired him to make a commitment to the mission of the IDES.
This was not an uncommon memory for many in the kitchen Thursday afternoon as generations bonded while cooking for their community.
Joe Lourenco, 15, assisted with the cooking for the first time this year.
“I help with whatever I can,” he said. “Throwing the meat in the pan is the most fun.”
Young Joe Lourenco heaved hulking chunks of meat alongside his grandfather, also named Joe Lourenco, who has been cooking for the Holy Ghost Festival for more than 30 years.
“He takes the position of his dad,” Joe Lourenco Sr. said, smiling at his grandson. Young Joe Lourenco’s father passed away recently and Joe Lourenco Jr. stepped up to carry on his father’s part in the tradition.
The grandson and grandfather said it was a bonding experience for those cooking and each other.
Joe Lourenco Sr. spoke of the importance of carrying on such an important cultural custom.
“Imagine if we don’t continue this,” Joe Lourenco Sr. laughed. “It won’t look too good.”
Furtado invites all to come try a taste of the one of the oldest traditions of Half Moon Bay. The round chuck roast, from meat provider Fagundes, will be served in the two IDES Halls on Main Street between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“You won’t want to come here if you’re a vegetarian,” Furtado laughed.