But the life we lead came gradually, who keeps the time? And a bitter lime, will do us fine, to kill the taste” – The Walkmen, Lisbon
Well, we certainly hope that we won’t kill the taste, but you get the point. What is it about the Portuguese saudade that evokes a feeling of magic and longing for the city of Lisbon? The Walkmen dedicated a whole album to the city and Noah Lennox (of Panda Bear) was at his creative best when recording albums cloistered in his home in Lisbon. Maybe it’s the Fado, maybe its because the city is suffused with the nostalgia of an old-world European culture or maybe because, for people like me, it’s the sense of mystery that stems from knowing next to nothing about the city. The point essentially, is that Lisbon (and Portugal in general) has remained mostly a vague after-thought – like one of those travel destinations reserved for our fortieth birthday (we would be imbibing some mandatory world culture as if it were an urban rite of passage for the ageing yuppies that we would be, you see?) So, aside from a few random hipster-music tidbits and a cursory reading of Antonio Lobo Antunes, my entire knowledge of Portugal consists of a ball-park awareness of its location as being “somewhere in Europe.” If asked to locate Portugal on a map, I would have probably pinned the tail on the donkey somewhere close to its eyeball. But when has ignorance daunted the foolishly brave?
So here we are, diving into Portuguese cuisine, like we are some self-proclaimed aficionados of Western European food and culture. Aficionados or not, curious we certainly are. And the first order of business, was finding ourselves a good cookbook. Or two. Ana Patuleia Ortins‘ Portuguese Homestyle Cooking is a fantastic collection of recipes from the mainland, as well as traditional fares from the Azorean islands and the agricultural province of Alentejo. The book has the time-honored recipes that were handed down in Ana’s family. Her love for her father, tradition and vintage Portugal, harken back to a simpler times that makes even my heathen unorthodox heart grow three times in size. If you are looking for something with a more contemporary twist, David letite’s The New Portuguese Table is a great pick. We will be using his recipe for the massa sovada (sweet bread) over Ana Patuleia Ortins’, because the former is less unwieldy and time-consuming as well as being more suited to practical portion sizes.
Over the next few days, we will be venturing into the world of bacalhau, caldo verde and arroz doce. Stay tuned!
Looks like Vasco da Gama reached India, alright.