The Portugal Adventure – To Sleep, Perhap to Dream

Harry drank his accidental beverage that morning! And I learned two things: He was fully as stubborn and I am, and  I should be cautious about challenging him to take a dare!

To sleep, perhaps to dream – Shakespeare
The field director’s wife saw me fading quickly and led me to the flat beneath hers. The family who lived there were in the states, and had graciously offered me their home while I was in Portugal.  It all seemed surreal. I was 3,511 plus miles away from home with only one person I knew in sight. And the last time I had seen him, he had just broken a date with me because he wanted to go to a picnic instead.

I was tired but wired. My internal clock was ticking when I was tocking. The events of the past few days skipped and jumped like a kaleidoscope in my brain. Eventually, I drifted off into a light sleep.

When I woke up, I decided that a shower was in order. Though I’d given the bathroom a glance before I crashed, I didn’t remember seeing that peculiar bit of furnishing earlier. I examined it. Then, I turned the faucet on and off. I looked around in the vicinity. It was less than an arm’s length from the fixture with which I was more familiar. I wasn’t going to ask. Resolutely, I turned my energy toward getting ready to go out to dinner in Lisbon.   The Portugal Adventure - The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly

Putting on the Ritz

Harry arrived a little early, of course, and to his surprise, I was ready. The man who sent me roses was armed with the loaned car, and gentlemanly attentions. He held the doors, and made sure I was comfortable. I totally admired the way he held his own with the other drivers; I was certain were in training for the Daytona 500.
Harry drove by  more landmarks like the statue of “Cristo Rei” (Christ the King) near the 25th of April Bridge (identical to the monument found near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

The bridge was originally called Salazar Bridge, named for Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, who served  from 1932 to 1968. Though Life Magazine called him the greatest Portuguese since Prince Henry the Navigator, many of the Portuguese had seen him quite differently. Dictator might have been a better title.

On the 25th of April, 1974 the military initiated a coup, which eventually returned democracy to Portugal, and the bridge was given change of name.
Soon, Harry pulled up at the the Lisbon Four Seasons Ritz. where he treated me to a bitoque. A bitoque (bee-tok) consists of a grilled or fried tenderized steak topped with a fried egg. It came with both a helping of rice, and French fries.

The next day, we would be pointing our noses toward Spain.

Have you ever mixed tea and coffee in the same cup?

The Portugal Adventure - The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly

Sopa da Galinha (Canja) Re-posted especially for Lucy who has a thing for soup.

Have you ever said, “It’s easy as pie.”? If you’ve ever made a pie from scratch, you know it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The Portuguese saying is, “É canja!” It’s as easy as making chicken soup. I think making chicken soup is  than making a pie from scratch (let alone one made from flour, shortening, and all the rest). It does, however, take time to do it right. This is not a microwave recipe. But it is good. Additionally, a popular proverb states: “Cautela e caldos de galinha nunca fizeram mal a ninguem.” (“Caution and chicken broth never did anyone harm.”) This is a basic recipe. Most cooks have their own signature touches they put in their Canja.

Ingredients:
1 large stewing hen (You can make chicken soup with a fryer, but it does not come close to the rich flavor of a stewing hen.)

2 quarts of water
1/2 cup of rice
Salt and pepper to taste
My special touches: Italian parsley, garlic to your taste, one whole onion stuck with four or five cloves, a whole turnip or yellow turnip (also goes by rutabaga or swede) (not sliced or diced), a handful of fresh herbs tied in a bunch and dropped into the broth.

Wash the hen in cold running water. Remove the eggs (found inside the hen), liver, gizzard, feet and heart, and reserve them on the side. Put the hen in a large pot, and add the chicken’s feet, the water and salt or other seasoning you may like. Bring it to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the chicken is tender. This may take several hours. Skim off any foam that forms.

When the broth has reduced to   1/2 quarts, put the gizzard, liver, feet and heart into the broth. After 10 minutes, slowly add the rice. Cover the pot, and let it simmer for approximately 20 minutes, then add the chicken’s eggs and cook ten more minutes.

Take out the gizzard, heart, feet and liver. Put the feet to the side, and mince the rest with a knife. Put some in each soup plate along with some of the hen’s egg(s)  and some minced parsley before you add the broth and rice. Serve with fresh bread.

The Portuguese often use a soup as the first course of a meal, so there is no need to have the meat in your soup, though if you want it for a main dish, you may certainly add more meat. Or, you can use it to make something else.

For many of the older Portuguese women that I knew in Portugal, having a chicken was a rare Sunday treat under Salazar’s rule. That being the case, one would wish to make it stretch as far as possible. I never actually ate any chicken feet, but I was given to understand that it was an honor to be offered one of the feet.

Do you have a special recipe for chicken soup? Is this recipe easy?

Canja de Galinha

The Portugal Years, Year Six: Camp

Teens at first year of camp.
Teens at first year of camp.

Summer of ’83 saw the first year at camp. Kids hunkered down in their bunks or in one of the apartments (because the bunks were not completed). The necessities were there, but it was rough. The “kitchen” was a small shack that would eventually be the snack shack.

When I visited the camp with Bethy, the activity she saw entranced her and she begged to  be a camper. She was too young,  but she begged and her daddy would be there all day so she  joined the fun. I warned her that she had to stay the week. I was pregnant and I could not drive the car.  (A perfect example of how parents punish themselves.)

My beloved daughter had fun during the day, but the nights found us both weeping and missing one another. She made friends of both American and Portuguese kids, and had one special friend named Matthew. He was an “older man” (he was six)  and fascinated her by showing her how the side pieces of his glasses could be stretched and pulled and not break. Except that he broke them….


By the next year, spring of 1984, the camp was fully ready for the campers. Benches and wooden adorned the dining hall, and restaurant appliances and kettles, stoves and a walk-in refrigerator filled the kitchen. The cooks made good use of the facilities and kept the hungry campers well fed. The snack shack covered during the times in between meals. I contributed to the snack shack food with homemade cinnamon rolls – they never got completely cooled.

The apartments, set away from the noise and fray, was a good trot to the dining hall. Bethy spent her days running around camp all the day long. Susie was happy as long as she could see me from where she was. They never lacked for company from among the campers!

Staff members were encouraged to eat their meals in the dining hall. I tried to coöperate. The stumbling block was that Susie found the noise level in the dining room intolerable. Generally, I ate quickly and took her back to the apartment before she had a meltdown.

One noon before lunch, she nursed and fell asleep. I figured she would be safe enough if I walked up to the dining room for a bite to eat. My bad. I had scarcely arrived at the dining hall when one of the campers came up to tell me that Susie was crying. Bellering was more like it. I could hear her before I was halfway back to the apartment.

But, as summer came to an end, Susie became accustomed to the noise in the dining hall and looked the food over. Till then she wanted no food but mother’s milk. One day the kitchen put out ripe pears  for dessert. I watched Susie as she reached out for one of those soft juicy pears, then mashed it with her tongue and ate it. And begged for more. There was no stopping her after that.

Susie at camp
Susie at camp

What do you think that blue thing is in the picture?

Portuguese Cuisine – “Garoupa à Portuguesa”

My mother’s idea of a fish dinner had always been either tuna sandwiches or fish sticks. I didn’t find them terribly obnoxious, but I wouldn’t, as they say, wake up in the middle of the night yellin’ for them.  There just aren’t enough sauces to make up the lack of flavor when it comes to fish sticks. The best you could say about either of them is that they were a fast meal.

Continental Portugal has 586 miles of coast, and I am here to tell you that the the Portuguese know fish. I’ll admit that the first time I ordered fish in a restaurant, the eyes looking back at me took me aback. It’s just one of those things you have to get used to. But I kept a blind eye on the side of the market where the fish was sold.

Fate caught up with me, though. Our “Tia Lília” invited us to her home for a fish dinner. She was concerned that Harry was way too thin and she wanted to give me some cooking advice. Into the kitchen I went to watch her prepare a fish the likes I had never seen before. The body of it was kind of triangular and happily, it was dead. The first thing she did was teach me how to scale the fish, then followed it up with a demonstration of how to filet the fish. But she left the eyes on it.

While the fish was cooking, Tia put the finishing touches on the sopa da galinha  including adding the egg yolks that she had taken from the hen, and the chicken’s feet.  Portuguese bread, boiled potatoes, salad and fresh fruit completed the meal. And the fish? The best I had ever eaten. It was a dish that I made quite a few times once I got over the fish looking at me at the market.

Recipe for Portuguese Grouper:

Time: prep – about 10 minutes; Cooking time 30 minutes

6 small to medium groupers scaled and filleted.

1 pound of tomatoes, one medium sized onion, 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil, half a cup of dry white wine (or grape juice), a bunch of Italian parsley, salt and pepper to taste

Season the sliced onion, with salt and pepper and simmer over a low flame.. Add the tomatoes peeled and seeded. After ten minutes, add the white wine. Put this sauce in a pan that can be put in the oven and put the groupers on top. Cook in medium heat for about 20 minutes covering them occasionally with the sauce. When done, serve with chopped parsley to garnish.

Are you up for a fish dinner?

peixe_garoupa

Portuguese Cuisine: Chocolate Mousse

Harry has a large sweet tooth, so he had already sampled all of the sweets he could find before I got to Portugal. One favorite of both of us is chocolate mousse. Please note, mousse is not the same a mouse. It’s a rich, delicious chocolate pudding. It’s simple to make and has only a few ingredients. The one thing you might want to change up is mixing in the raw egg whites. You can buy powdered egg whites wherever they sell Wilton products (department stores generally carry them).

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:
3 – 4 ounce bars of medium to dark chocolate
whites of three eggs
1 tablespoon of real vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of real butter
yolks of three eggs
3 tablespoons water

Directions:
1) Break the chocolate bars into pieces, and then slowly heat it while stirring until it is melted but not burnt.
2) Let it cool a little bit then add the vanilla extract and the butter and stir them into the chocolate.
3) Stir constantly as you add the egg yolks one at a time.  Next, beat egg whites till stiff then gently fold them into the chocolate mixture until they are mixed well in.
4) Divide the mixture into pudding bowls, cover and put into the refrigerator overnight.

mousse
Mousse de chocolate

A Merry Portuguese Christmas

Harry and I have many happy holiday memories from our Portuguese Adventure. For me, though, our second Christmas stands out over all the others. We were members of the Igreja Evangélica de Algés at the time. Although Americans attended there, it was totally Portuguese in tradition and the congregation was amazing. Irmão Fernando Resina was one of the teaching elders. Our second Christmas in Portugal he and his wife invited us to eat supper with their family on Christmas Eve.

The adventure began when I asked Harry what time we would need to be there. He said, “Around 9:30 p.m.” I’ve always been a morning lark, and that made me blink. But, such a delightful invitation, offered in love was irresistible.

Before we left home on Christmas Eve, we had a snack around 6 p.m., and began to get ready to go. We borrowed the ministry van since it would be too late after supper to find public transportation. In addition, my tummy was feeling like I was coming down with the flu.

We arrived around 9:30, right on time, but the party had not begun. (Later I learned that it in Portugal, generally “on time” can be up to 45 minutes after the hour of the invitation. The Resina children had put their boots by the stove for Pai Natal (Father Christmas) to put presents in at midnight. The tree was beautifully decorated.  I learned that evening that, in general, Evangelical Christians had trees and Pai Natal who brought gifts;  Catholic Christians had manger scenes, and the Christ Child brought the gifts.

prespio

Bacalhau Cozido

Around 10:30 p.m., our hostess called us to the table. There was the traditional Bacalhau Cozido (boiled codfish).  That included salted cod fish, reconstituted and boiled. There was cabbage, boiled potatoes, and broccoli on the side. It was my first Bacalhau Cozido, and I really enjoyed it. As we finished the bacalhau, family members began clearing the table. I was comfortably full, and it was around 11 p.m.

Galo assado

To my surprise, there was another course; the galo assado, a roasted fowl that had once upon a time crowed at sunrise. Salad, and homemade potato chips accompanied it. I had slowed down on eating, feeling fine and was hoping the flu had given up on me.

Following the fowl, bowls of canja (chicken soup) appeared on the table. It was delicious, but I couldn’t eat much.  I was hoping that no one would be offended by my waning enthusiasm for food.

Bolo Rei

And there was more. We were directed to the dessert table. It was smothered with attractive sweets from rice pudding to Bolo Rei (King Cake). I’d never seen so many kinds of different pastries and puddings in my life. I nibbled a little here and there, and they were amazing. It was truly a feast fit to honor the King of kings. And no unhappy tummy all night.

Around midnight the children got their boots, and opened their presents. Food, fun and fellowship ran riot that night. Soon after midnight, we got into the van and drove back across town to our neighborhood.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all of you. I look forward to sharing more about Portugal and our time there in January. 

The Portugal Years – Year One: The Summer and the Winter Were the First Year

sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And suddenly, or so it seemed, the year had rolled around to June 30th once again. It had been two eventful years from the time I visited Portugal until our first anniversary. I was comfortably settled with the culture, and could speak well enough to go on with, but my ears…well, the Portuguese words ran past my ears much more quickly than my ears were able to catch them.

Harry, in spite of the landlady’s consternation, had painted the living room. We went to the store to pick a color. I was looking for a very pale peach to lighten up the room. Someone should have warned me. What looked like pale peach on the paint chip became pumpkin pudding on the wall. We lived with it. It made a great conversation starter.

I had become a competent food shopper by listening to and watching the Portuguese women shop. There was fresh produce all year ’round, but winter time was the time for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – and Harry didn’t care much for them. We got through it with a little cheese sauce poured over them and sometimes a hollandaise sauce.

Soccer barged into my life. I learned that Portuguese boys often learned to kick a soccer ball (futebol in Portuguese) before they could walk. And the aficionados of soccer are even more passionate about the sport than baseball fans in America are about going out to the ball game. I did find it much easier to watch than baseball.

My formal language lessons ended, but learning to speak Portuguese would be an ongoing project. Writing in Portuguese is fraught with its own pitfalls. Written Portuguese is much more formally expressed than in conversation, and requires great care in the writing. Another challenge was that two people in our organization were raised in Brazil. Brazilian Portuguese is less formal. Is it any wonder that people who didn’t know me thought I was Brazilian?

And, of course, Harry and I continued to hold a hope in our hearts that our dream would come to pass. We were ready, but the dream was not. We still had Sammi cat and I wasn’t lonely during the day.

Harry took me to a seafood restaurant in Lisbon to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding. He had been saving up for quite some time so he could give me a lobster dinner. It was delicious, and we finished the meal with a performance of Cherries Jubilee.

cherries jubilee

The summer and the winter were the first year. And President Jimmy Carter was finishing his last year in office.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever eaten a flaming dessert?  What do you think you would like about Portugal?

 

The Portugal Years – Year One: On the Road Again

Portugal-CIA_WFB_Map_(2004)We did not plant churches. Our ministry was to support  local churches; we held evangelistic meetings,  taught teen Bible studies and did summer camp for teens. We also had a musical ensemble.  

Occasionally, Harry and I borrowed transportation and set out to participate  in some of the events, or just to meet with and visit with our Portuguese colleagues.  There is a map with the with a mileage counter on the right for your convenience as you follow us around Portugal. All trips began from our home near Lisbon. (For the sake of clarity, Lisbon is approximately on the same parallel as New York City but with a milder climate due to the Jet Stream.)

One late fall trip took us all the way to Porto. It isn’t the most northern town, but it is one of the oldest. The River Douro runs through the town, and on one visit there I saw women doing their laundry in the river. Other areas had wash-a-terias where women took their laundry and washed it in concrete washtubs.

Washer Women 02

this time, we were visiting the Centro Bíblical, another group that had summer camp for kids. When we arrived we were greeted warmly as only the Portuguese can greet. We were further north, and the little Portuguese language that I had learned did not sound exactly the way that it had in Lisbon. (Some of the Portuguese in the north sounds closer to Spanish.) But I did not need any translation for the love with which they greeted me. Harry was a favorite, and everyone wanted to meet his new wife.

It was much colder in Porto area than it was in Lisbon, and I was glad that Harry had given me a heads up on bringing warm clothes. We sat in the kitchen as the sun disappeared over the horizon and the cold invaded. They had a brazier on the floor to heat that room. Harry was applied to frequently for his mad translating skills.

At bedtime, I was escorted upstairs to where the campers bunked in the summer. I began to wish that I had brought more warm clothes; it was cold in there. I was in the girls’ dormitory and Harry was over in the boys’ dorm. The bunks were short and narrow, but there was no fear of falling out of bed. The ladies came and lovingly tucked me in by wrapping numerous woolen blankets around me. I couldn’t move.

In the morning, I wondered what was next when one of the ladies came and with words and gestures signified that I should get up and get my clothes on. I did and went downstairs. Everyone crowded around me and kept asking a question I did not understand: Dormiste bem? Harry was not in sight. Finally he showed up and told me they wanted to know if I had slept well. That was the beginning of understanding that Portuguese manners are more formal than those of my homeland. Eventually, I discovered that the formal manners also make it easier to have healthy intimacy in friendships.

On that same trip, we visited a Portuguese family who lived on the Atlantic coast. I don’t believe I ever met an inhospitable Portuguese (though I suppose there may have been some). The family we visited was so happy that we were coming that they prepared a special delicacy for us. They had gathered a large amount of sea snails, then seasoned and cooked them just for us. My word, I hoped I could get them down. All I could think of was the story about the missionary who was invited to dinner in an African village where he was fed some sort of white grubs.

They handed us a plate and a toothpick to pick the snails out of the shell. I looked at them for a minute, and watched others eat. Then I took the plunge. To my delight, they were delicious and eminently edible.

Cooked_Sea_snails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever eaten snails? How do you feel about formal manners?

Just When You Thought the Party Was Over

In my family, Christmas ended when December 26th arrived. We always sang about the twelve days of Christmas, but we didn’t know that the song held a wealth of uncharted tradition. In Portugal, Christmas Day was only the beginning of celebration. It ended on January 6th, when we celebrated King Day to remember the Wise Men who traveled long and far to see the Christ child. In American liturgical churches, we call it Epiphany.

The King Cake – Bolo Rei – is ubiquitous all during the holiday season. Bolo Rei attended every party and every get together during December and into January. It is a beautiful and delicious cake made from a rich yeast dough laced with spirits. The cake had dried fruits, candied fruits and nuts in the batter.

The cake had two hidden secrets inside that were wrapped in parchment paper: a coin, and a fava bean. There are different customs around the country, but what I was told was that the person who had the coin (or toy) in his slice would have good fortune for the next year. The person who got the fava would have to bring the Bolo Rei next time. The cake was always good fresh and even better toasted and buttered the day after.

On January first, I was done with Christmas and ready to take the tree down and get back to whatever would be closest to normal. Then Harry asked me, “Why are you taking the tree down already? My mom always left the tree up until after my birthday on the seventh. And she always made me a Red Velvet Cake.” Birthday? Ooops!!

bolo rei
Bolo Rei