Goa has come to be synonymous with feni due to its long relationship with Goans, right from the time when Goa was under the Portuguese rule. Feni has been considered to be the invention of Goa. But, according to one recent article published in the Times of India has raised a doubt about the Feni being the invention of Goa…
The statement made by the Mumbai-based corporate chef Zubin D’Souza, who opined that since it was the Portuguese who brought the cashew apple to Goa from Brazil, it is “quite possible feni is not a Goan invention”. According to him, the cashew plantation does not exist in Goa prior to the Portuguese invasion of this tiny state. The Feni which is known for its medicinal values in Goa in the olden days may have started losing its popularity due to various reasons but, there are still few Goans who believes in Feni and keep tapping the brew’s medicinal and spiritual benefits.
The highly intoxicating brew (an Alcohol Beverage) Feni (made from either Cashew Apple or Palm) is popularly known as ‘Soro’ or ‘Cop’ in the state of Goa. The consumption of Feni never make anyone sick, like other alcoholic beverages, and hence it has attained the level of divinity in this tiny state.
The point raised by Mr. D’Souza has been partially corroborated by Biula V Pereira in the book, ‘One for the Road’. The associate professor of sociology wrote in the book that while palm feni predates cashew feni, the process of distilling alcohol from the toddy was taught to Goans by the missionaries. “Even before the arrival of the Portuguese, certain traditions and rituals demanded the use of Feni. However, the early Goans drank and used fermented toddy,” Pereira says. The uses of palm feni were limited. Besides being used as a preservative in cooking and appeasing spiritual and symbolic deities, its scope did not extend to medicinal aspects. That fell more in the league of cashew feni, says agriculturist Minguel Braganza.
According to Pereira, the medicinal uses of cashew feni are mind-boggling. The brew can be used to treat anything, right from the common cold to orthopedic problems and rheumatism, once even finding use in childbirth. “The midwife would ensure a bottle of feni was always at hand to treat the umbilical cord,” says Pereira, adding that the instrument used to cut the cord was kept dipped in Feni. “Post-delivery, the woman would be advised to use some feni on the homemade sanitary pad. And in a little-known practice, the ‘voiginneo’ (midwives) would blow a mouthful of feni on the vagina after delivery, as this was believed to help in healing the lacerations sustained during childbirth,” she writes in the book.
Meanwhile, according to the Founder President of the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association, Mac Vaz, the reason behind feni’s wide medicinal use was the lack of western medicines during a greater part of the Portuguese rule. “Natives wholly depended on natural cures. Skepticism to accept modern options, cost and lack of trained doctors in rural areas were other reasons,” he says.
There are many stories connected to the use of Fenni in Goa. Right from the offering the favorite drink to “Devchar” or “Zagevoillo” (The Spirit that protects the villagers from all the Evil) to the use of it into all occasions, such as Marriage, birth, death and everything in between.
In a deviation from the more common use of feni to please spirit gods, the Shet community of Verna worships goddess Jagdamba – a manifestation of Durga – with feni and nonvegetarian food during the Hindu month of Malund. Fortunately, when it comes to culinary uses, the employment of feni as tenderizer and preservative continues, and even finds adaptations by foreign cultures. “I knew a German lady who used feni as a preservative in jams she prepared,” says Braganza.
Whatever may be the truth behind the existence of the Fenny, but this brew has attained the height which no other brew has ever achieved in any other country in the world. Of course, the use of wine is done for the spiritual purpose in the Christian community across the world but, it has no medicinal value as Feni does. It does not matter if the Feni was invented in Goa or not but, what matters the most is, As Wine Belongs to Western Country the Feni belongs to Goa.