Carrinha Bedford (3)
King D. João I granted the “Fair Charter” to what was known at the time as Feira Franca de Viseu in 1392. Later, it was renamed Feira de São Mateus (St Matthew’s Fair), now one of Portugal’s most important fairs that has been held over 600 times. Initially held in May and later in April on St George’s day, the patron saint of the Knights and the crusades, the Fair was moved to September around St Matthew’s Day, 21 September, at some time that cannot be pinpointed but some historians ascribe to the 16th century. Today, Feira de São Mateus is held in August and September and for about forty days provides visitors with the best Portugal has to offer, being a very special event for emigrants who return to their roots at this time of year. Every year the city of Viseu gathers around one million people in an enclosure of over 75 thousand square meters: a large event of popular, cultural, economic, and gastronomic characteristics. But it was not always so. The event went through troubled times: difficulties that arose from times of crisis or caused by a decrease in fair’s usefulness as a market, due to changes in the dynamics of trade, the event also suffered from the lack of a local revitalization project. But the will of Man and History – always history! – spoke louder, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, the local government breathed new life into the fair. Since then, the venue has gained renewed importance, the range of goods on offer has expanded substantially, the exhibition areas have grown, and a clear commitment to garnering new audiences and to a reconciliation with the Fair’s history brought new traditions: artistic lighting, the Villages’ Parade, the Fire Fighters’ Tea Room Ball, the cabbage soup, and (of course) eels.
Eel, this delicacy that has already become a symbol of Feira de São Mateus, has been a part of Viseu’s history since before Comur was founded in 1942. Because there was a surplus of eels captured by fishermen in Aveiro Lagoon, the women of Murtosa fried them, preserved them in pickled sauce, and took them to sell at the fair – an important source of income for families. The fact that access to fish is very limited inland made this delicacy even more appreciated by visitors to the Fair, who knew that they would find it there. And in the 1940s, as Feira de São Mateus was the most important in the region, it was an obvious destination for the eels from Murtosa. Comur was born precisely to organize the sale of these pickled eels. And over almost eight decades, Comur has been conquering its space at Feira de São Mateus. Today, it is one of the fair’s main attractions. In 2020, in a restored ’70s Bedford van bearing the colours of Comur in homage to the past, we reinvented a new way of presenting eels to the world with the same recipe and taste as always. The eels prepared by Comur are still considered one of the most special delicacies that Portugal has to reveal to the world. During August and September, they take centre stage and shine full of flavour at Feira de São Mateus, with memories shared with many Portuguese people. But they’re here for you all year round.
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