Octopus, fruit of the sea, king of Atlantic cuisine, has its fiefdom in O Carballiño, 80 kilometres from the coast. The origins of this contradiction lie in the fact that in the Middle Ages, the product was used as payment in kind to the monastic orders of Oseira for operation of their port possessions in the Rías Baixas region. The people of O Carballiño, specifically those of the parishes of San Xoán de Arcos and Santa María de Arcos, also properties of Oseira Monastery, were responsible for its transport, preparation and sale in the market.
The tradition of those fairs and markets has been celebrated since 1962 with one of the most important culinary festivals in Galicia. Some 70,000 people visit the town, which fills with the smell of octopus cooking on the stoves of each and every restaurant and in the Municipal Park. Tables and benches are set up in this spot beside the banks of the Arenteiro River to celebrate the festival. It exudes the atmosphere of a traditional pilgrimage celebration, with a number of popular performances and clubs known as peñas playing an important role. The octopus chefs of Arcos embody the age-old tradition of preparing the cephalopod. They cook around 40,000 kilos of it, although the festival also offers the opportunity to sample caldo (soup), carne ao caldeiro (beef and potatoes dressed with olive oil and paprika), empanada (savoury pie), O Ribeiro wine, bread from Cea, traditional queimada (hot punch ritual) and O Carballiño's famous cañas de crema (cream-filled pastry rolls).
Sampling octopus from the street vendors in the Municipal Park.