Little Country Girl

Text by Paola Corini
Photographs by Luca De Santis

A small coastal farming community, fifty miles south of the Golden Gate Bridge, two miles east of State Route 1 and the waves. Pescadero is a mix of grassy pastures, the milk of two hundred alpine goats and the salty Pacific breeze. It’s a bitter-sweet place, nothing fancy – thank goodness you might say. Calendula, borage, sage, carnation and fleur-de-lis have been entering the town’s kitchens and pharmacies in springtime for centuries. In autumn the yellows and the burnt umber colours arrive, the pumpkin, rhubarb and artichokes from the garden.  

Frank Duarte opened the saloon and barber’s shop in 1894. Emma Duarte started to bake pies there in the 1930s. Ron Duarte and his wife Lynn first made the artichoke soup at the start of the 1960s. In the 1920s, Pescadero was a destination for the locals and weekenders, and it still is today, for all the same reasons: that slice of “American country living” in the form of a bowl of creamy artichoke soup and a big chunk of olallieberry pie. 

Frank’s green beans and rhubarb came with him from the Azores; the second generation of Portuguese in America probably never visited the place. But every year, six weeks after Easter Sunday, Pescadero celebrates the Holy Ghost, like every island in the Azores. 

The families of the festival queens drive here from all over the Bay Area in their pick-ups and park in single file in the village while the girls slip on their precious costumes in the back. “It ain’t no easy job, hon. You’ve gotta be very focused. You’re gonna take it seriously, ain’t ya?”. The parade is opened by the band of bagpipe players in their tartan kilts, who then slip into the Duartes’ saloon like Alice through the tiny door to Wonderland. 

What Scotland has got to do with this village festival we do not know, but everyone in the place will tell you that the heap of bagpipes in the old bar is the best bit. The village smells of beef and mint, but we’ll already be on our way to Santa Cruz when the traditional soup’s served at the end of mass.

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