Gofio is a toasted, milled meal of maize, wheat, barley or millet that was eaten by the original natives of the island before the conquest of the islands. Editor Shaun Addison describes the meal that converted him to the Canarian staple.
It’s the fuel that has raised countless generations of strapping Canarians – go to any Canarian wrestling match and you’ll see what gofio can produce.
And I hated it ever since I went to a barbecue shortly after arriving on the island. This was at a local fiesta, with fish on the grill and kids running riot. At one point, an old lady offered me a tray of strange delicacies, saying it was gofio she’d prepared herself. Politely, I accepted a piece, put it in my mouth and nodded approvingly.
This wasn’t easy, as it was disgusting. A cloying mass of slightly gritty, burnt tasting meal, which the sugar and chocolate failed to conceal. After she’d left, I spat it out behind a cactus, and noticed that someone else had already done the same.
I barely touched gofio for years after that, although we often stirred it into our son’s milk as a baby, born on the island, this little conejero couldn’t get enough of it.
Then, a couple of years ago, I reached a restaurant in the centre of the mossy laurel forest at the centre of La Gomera, a magical place perched on a hilltop with rough wooden benches for diners to sit on. We ordered the potaje de berros for which the establishment was famed, and received a thick, hearty peppery watercress soup. Beside it was a bowl of plain, dry gofio, and the waitress explained how to stir the broth into this for gofio escaldado.
It was delicious, and all those flavours I’d disliked before suddenly made sense in a savoury setting. It’s an easy side dish I’ve prepared several times since, often with the red onion scoops that are used to eat it, and it’s quickly becoming the taste of home for me, too.
Recent great news for Lanzarote gofio fans was the 2017 reopening of the island’s gofio mill in San Bartolomé. The gofio from La Molina José María Gil is sold in many local shops, comes in several varieties that use maize, wheat, barley, and chickpeas, and is fantastic stuff.
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