A visit to Old Goa to attend the novena Masses or the feast Mass of St Francis Xavier is incomplete to a majority of Goans without a bite of sausage bread. Eating sausage bread after Mass – wolfed down with a beer in the old days – is a tradition that goes back years and one that is here to stay.
“This is my place. I do not know for how many years we have been selling sausage bread in this place because my grandparents used to run this stall in the past. We apply for permission from the panchayat to set up shop here every year, and the same place is earmarked,” discloses Elicia Fernandes, as she cuts bread to stuff it with sausages.
Just like Elicia, Valencia Carneiro recollects that she missed coming for the novena of St Francis Xavier only during the time of the pandemic. “My life felt incomplete when I could not come for the feast during COVID. That is the only time in my life that I was away. It feels so good to be back here,” says 78-year-old Valencia, as she looks around the festive stalls.
“We are originally from Mandur, but my grandparents and later my parents have been coming to Old Goa every year. I do not know the years, but I have a feeling that they were here from the time the feast started being celebrated. We first put up a stall selling the same things – sausage bread, cutlet bread, croquets, chops, tea and cold drinks – during the novena of Fr Agnel and come to Old Goa to set up this stall after the feast of Fr Agnel on November 20,” explains Elicia.
Elicia and her parents operate two stalls that are in proximity to each other, and they are amidst a group of over 40 stalls selling original Goan snacks. Unlike many other stall owners, Elicia and her family source all their material from home.
“We have a bakery and that’s where we get our bread from. We make and sell sausages throughout the year in Agassaim. We specialise in Goan pork dishes, and our business is constant,” claims Elicia, as she pauses to solicit customers to savour their spread.
“We used to have fun here during my younger days. Now with age, I hesitate to eat sausage bread because of the pork fat. I eat the beef cutlets, but sometimes the beef is hard,” smiles Valencia, as she munches her cutlet bread.
“I normally sell around a total of 400 rolls of bread with sausages or beef cutlets during novena days. The number increases on the fest day, but we have never had a problem selling because sitting down and eating sausage bread is a tradition that will never die among Goans,” says Elicia with a smile that draws a stream of clients to her stall.
“We sell our sausage bread for Rs 60, and we keep the price that way because that has been part of our tradition from the beginning. People come here after the feast Mass to feast on our food and not to be fleeced. Generations of the same families have been clientele through the years, just as our grandparents passed on the business to us. The heritage continues,” beams Elicia, as she serves sausage bread to her customers.
“We open our stall at six in the morning and close by nine at night. That is the time when most are going home. There used to be a time when snacks and even alcohol were available right through the night around the vicinity of the church. Things are changing now. We were open last year, but the crowd was smaller compared to this year. Now that COVID is over, we are seeing the good old days returning,” predicts Elicia.
As one walks past Elicia’s stall, the enthusiasm in all stall owners selling traditional Goan snacks is palpable and so is the joy of the faithful for whom the thrill of coming for the novena of St Francis Xavier is understandable.
While the fest is an occasion for Elicia to serve and return to financial stability; for Valencia, it is a return to her concept of spirituality.