Our Daily Bread (Nosso pão de cada dia) Part 1

I always wondered how hard-working Europeans survived on the Continental Breakfast. Coffee and bread just never seemed to last until lunch. And in Portugal, lunch happens somewhere between 1 to 2 p.m.

Papo Seco
Papo Seco

When we lived in Portugal, the first thing we did in the morning was go to the bakery for a fresh supply of papa secos (see photo). We generally bought only enough for a day because they got stale quickly. We tore them apart, buttered them and seldom let them go bad. They were good with jam, cheese or almost anything that invites you to experiment.


Some days we went to a pasteleria – a bakery – for breakfast.

uma bola de berlim
uma bola de berlim

This kind of doughnut always called Harry’s name when we walked into the pasteleria. It is the Portuguese version of a cream filled doughnut. They blame it on Berlin. Very sweet. Like Harry.

Pão de leite
Pão de leite

This was my favorite bakery treat. It’s a rich sweet bread, and I usually asked for it buttered and stuffed with a slice of cheese.

mafra bread
Pão de Mafra

The Pão de Mafra is a a specialty of the village of Mafra. A version of sour dough bread, they use very little yeast and let it go “sour” before they shape it into a long loaf and bake it in a brick oven. It’s heavier than the other breads, but oh so filling. Eat it fresh as it comes out of the oven, or toast it the day after. Use it to sop up your soup if you like – and no one is looking.

Uma bica

What is  bread without coffee? This is a bica – the Portuguese expression of espresso. Strong. Froth on top. And if you do it right, it is sweet enough to keep the dentists in business for a decade. See that spoon? The coffee is strong enough for the spoon to stand up in the cup. Well, okay, I was exaggerating. But not by much 😀 Some like to drink a bica first thing in the morning to shock their brains awake.

Um Galão

For those who prefer a gentler awakening, let me introduce you to the galão, which translates as “gallon.” It holds a bica of coffee in the bottom of a glass that is then filled with hot, foaming milk. Would you call that a latté? Unless you specify otherwise, the coffee may be part coffee and part something like Postum. If you like coffee, you may not like the substitute.

Not a coffee person? Try chá de limão.

Lemon tea
Lemon tea

What do you eat for breakfast? Do you eat breakfast? Would this coffee and bread sort of thing be enough for you till the next meal?


The Portugal Chronicles – The First Spat: Mexican Standoff

Newlyweds can go along for some time on that delightful cloud of perfect bliss. This is especially true if one is adjusting to not just marriage but a whole new culture and life. But, inevitably, there comes a day when perfect bliss becomes, “What? How can you disagree with me on (fill in the blank)?

It might be that one of the pair cooked a meal…say beef tongue… (not smoked) and the other half finds this rare tidbit inedible. The proper way to hang the roll of toilet paper, or the placement of the toilet seat are causes for concern in some families. Should the tube of toothpaste be squeezed in the middle of the tube or from the bottom? It’s shocking, really, the discoveries that newlyweds make. Sooner or later these preferences lead to some intense fellowship. And so we come to the bed sheets.

We were given many pretty sheets for shower and wedding gifts. I enjoyed changing them weekly. Harry was seldom around when these changes took place. One day, however, he happened to be home and offered to help me make the bed. I shook the sheet out with the flowers facing the bottom sheet and noticed that Harry was trying to turn the sheet over. He told me I was doing it wrong.

I informed him that my mother had always put the sheets on print side down. Harry replied that his mother had done it print side up. I told him that  you could see the prints with the flowers facing down when you open the bed. We glared at one another across the bed. Neither of us firstborns was giving an inch. Finally I said, “If you want the sheets to be print side up the way your mother did it, you can have it if you make the bed yourself.”

A couple of years later we were in the states for my sister-in-law’s wedding. While we were there, I happened upon a Dear Abby column. I had had no idea that it was serious enough to write to Abby about it.  Apparently, we were both right. Abby said, “The print side goes up when there are no blankets to cover the print; the print side goes down when the sheet is covered by a blanket.” I was so glad to be able to put that issue to bed.

So, what do you think? Did Harry care enough about it to start making the bed himself?