Friday, July 9, 2010

Pleasantly Plump: The Story of an American in Portugal


I deeply apologize for my hiatus but you must know that I would have loved to write for the past month except for my lack of internet on the other side of the Atlantic while in Portugal. Anytime I wanted to use the internet I had to contend with the other 13 people on my study abroad trip as we all battled for bandwidth in the internet cafe down the block. Needless to say, my internet usage was spent updating the fam and assuring Louis that I hadn't, in fact, replaced him with my new lovers Mr. Choc and Gelato. More on those two later. First, I want to discuss the good, the bad, the ugly, and the starchiest of Portuguese cuisine and illustrate my points with photographic proof.

Portuguese Food: Plain and Simple
Disclaimer: Opinions based on food tasted primarily in the town of Vila do Conde and northern Portugal. This does not represent all Portuguese food-just what I happened to observe and ingest from a month long study abroad session.

  1. The first thing about Portuguese cuisine that must be established is that they LOVE their carbs. With almost every meal they serve french fries (of the fairly soggy variety) and rice. See example below:
  2. They don't believe non-starchy vegetables have a place in their meals. The day I found spinach (which many of you know is my absolute FAVORITE food because of it's versatility) I did a happy dance. In a small Portuguese grocery store. It was truly a special moment.
  3. Their salads consist of two pieces of lettuce, raw onion, some sliced tomato, and maybe olives if you're lucky - dressed in vinegar. 'Nuff said.
  4. Octopus is a big deal. Fisherman actually go out and catch octopus-insane. Refer to octopus and octopus rice photo:
  5. Corn is believed to only be cow food. It is just recently being added to their "salads."
  6. There is A LOT of pork. Everywhere. And if you order chicken? You'll receive what seems to resemble the entire bird just cut into pieces. YUM.
  7. They sell ice cream everywhere. Whether it's gelato or ice cream bars there is never a lack of ice cream. My preference? Cornetto Soft Nut Emotions flavor. It is a chocolate and hazelnut soft serve with chunks in it YUM. I had it once and searched high and low for it until we finally met again 2 days prior to my departure. I was nuts for nut emotions!
  8. Their pastries are AWESOME. Many are egg based and are creamy, dreamy, full of custard. The local fave? Natas-a custard filled pastry almost resembling creme brulee except packed into an itty bitty pastry shell. Most often topped with cinnamon and DELICIOUS.
  9. There is a lot of fish consumed. Whole fish-not filets, heads and all. Once again, here is picture proof:
  10. I'm almost positive the country would cease to function without the existence of espresso. We took at least 3 coffee breaks during the day, and consumed more after dinner. Because I don't drink coffee, this is where I indulged in the ice cream. Alas, my portubelly grew.
  11. Choco Duo by Mr. Choc, a delectable blend of both white and milk chocolate in spreadable form, coupled with Maria cookies is the best thing ever.
  12. Lunch is entirely too long (about 2 hours), forcing my attention span to putter out. When I get bored and have food in front of me I tend to uh, get "creative." Meet my good friend and not quite Frankenstein-esque creation, Pepito:

Afterthought: If you go to a restaurant in Spain and order Manchego off of the "empanadas, meats/pies" menu you WILL get a plate of cold manchego cheese. Not a nice warm manchego empanada like one would think. Yup, I learned the hard way, but I don't regret it. Eating manchego in Spain is the way to eat it and it also tops the list as one of my favorite meals.

I'd just like to end with the notion that despite how these opinions may sound, the food truly is delicious there. I'm just a bitter Pescatarian who could only consume fish with scales and fins. On top of that I'm also a hopeless lover of carbs, sugar, and anything inclusive of fresh olive oil and/or butter. I embraced the Portubelly whilst abroad and now that I'm back I'm takin that thing DOWN.

Stay tuned for my next ventures: make your own pizza and learning to cover cake in fondant!

1 comment: