Originally, I wanted this section to be part of the “Dolce Far Niente” post I recently added. But Lisbon is too much of an incredible city. It has been an experience so far made up of colored architecture, winding alleys, clear and crisp days, delicate aromas, compassionate people, flavorful history and inner peace. And the food here is a line that connects Lisbon to its people, which leads me to relive those colors, sounds and flavors.
I want to touch upon the food in Portugal. I cannot begin to describe how much of a paradise Portugal has been to me. I already had a wonderful relationship with food and cooking, but I made the ultimate commitment when the plane touched down in Lisbon and I had my first meal in Portugal after years of American food. Meals are very simple in how they are prepared and how they taste. There are no fancy sauces, spices, dressings or ingredients. In the end, you get a dish that is simple, straightforward, enticing, and still delicious- much like the people here.
Of course the diet here is very Mediterranean… lots of olive oil, breads, meat, olives, cheeses, alcohol and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. People start out their meals with bread topped with cheese and/or presunto (prosciutto). Sometimes they even use a type of tuna spread.
I love the pre-lunch/dinner snacking, but I also really enjoy how the meal is designed. Portuguese lunches and dinners make sure to represent all the food groups. For example, you’ll have bread and cheese and maybe a slice or two of prosciutto. Then lunch or dinner will start with a light soup, followed by arroz cozido e carne (stewed beef and rice) with a vegetable dish on the side, and end with fruit and a sweet.
People eat at different times here than back home. Lunch usually occurs between 1-2 PM (13:00-14:00) and then dinner doesn’t take place until 8 PM (20:00), if not later. For this reason, Portuguese people like to “lanchar” or “snack” in between lunch and dinner. This typically involves tea or coffee, with a pastry or slice of homemade cake or toast with cheese and jam. The cheese eaten at this time looks like the one pictured below:
It is fresh cheese from sheep’s milk, and my aunt likes to serve it with pumpkin jam, for example. To lanchar, my aunt sometimes makes a “cheesecake” (which is really more like a pound cake) out of a cheese she makes at home similar to the one in the picture above. Or, she makes a light cinnamon cake which she serves with apples. All in all, I love that time of day because, by that time, it is starting to get cooler so you can sit with your snack and have a cup of tea outside in the glorious sunlight.
I love the availability of fresh, wholesome food here. At home, in the U.S., food is radically different. It is an obvious fact, but it holds tremendous impact. Here, I feel so much healthier eating fruits and vegetables because they are grown locally- by my family or other local farmers- and they don’t have a lot of the chemicals or hormones in produce back home. The beef is much better here too; in fact, American beef is banned by the European Union because of the large quantity of hormones it possesses. I know that many people my age may not think of these things, but it’s amazing how much healthier I feel here- this is one of the motivators for me wanting to live here someday. You can find fresh, savory produce and foods here for much cheaper! For instance, there are so many street vendors with fruit carts full of fresh cherries and mangoes, etc. I couldn’t be happier.
To conclude, I ended up making my first meal in Portugal yesterday for a friend and I. I made chicken fajitas with sweet potato fries and a fruit punch to drink. Dessert was amazing, I am so in love with the desserts here.
I ended up buying a huge bag of cherries from the street vendor. The ice cream is a really popular brand here called Carte D’Or (manufactured in the UK). The cookie on top is my favorite cookie brand/type here in Portugal. They are called Belgas and they are basically round discs of waffle cone with one side coated in chocolate. I am in heaven ♥
Well, I’m off to cook some dinner to watch the soccer game (Portugal v. Netherlands) in 40 minutes! God Bless.
Beijo, meus amigos. ✌