I’m not going to lie, I was very sad to move on to Portugal. Not because Portuguese food is bad, but merely because, in my opinion, Spanish food is that fantastic. I could have happily cooked my way through a few cookbooks before getting bored of everything that country had to offer. The plan initially was to combine Portugal with Southern Spain into the same week, but after taking a closer look, I decided to split them up. Like with my actual travel habits, I’m nothing if not flexible. I wasn’t always this way, but I’ve definitely become more go-with-the-flow these days, sometimes to my own detriment. Check out Tomato’s account of our recent jaunt to South Beach and why, when traveling, food is serious business.
I sort of see Portugal as my gateway drug of independent, international travel. Lettuce and I went in the spring of 2006 for a beach vacation. Yes, a beach vacation. Most people head to Mexico. We went to Portugal. Why not? Before this trip, my only foray into international travel had always been school-related- study abroad the summer before, a few week-long trips with my AP Euro class in high school, but I had never really ventured to travel yet without purpose. It wasn’t really even my idea, but when asked if I wanted to go, I reflexively said yes, without hesitation or a second consideration. Why Portugal? No idea. What were we going to do there? No idea. It had been a rough second year of law school, having been Katrina-displaced that fall and readjusting to post-Katrina life that spring, and we were all in need of some time on the beach.
I had no idea what to expect heading there. The closest comparison point I’d had was two days in Barcelona the summer before (so really nothing). We rented an apartment for the week in this charming little town called Albufeira on the southern coast. It was a five minute walk through the town to the beach, and because we were staying in a full-fledged apartment with a kitchen, we were able to live like locals, with a good mix of staying in and eating out.
I remember the food being absolutely phenomenal, and it is similar to what I’ve been cooking in Spain in a lot of ways, simple ingredients with big flavor. My favorite dish was this sort of monkfish with tomatoes and onions…I must have gotten it at least three times. Lettuce was keen on the grilled sardines. For your enjoyment, I’m not making either dish. It’s not really grilling season, and I couldn’t find a recipe for the fish that sounded close. However, what I am making are quintessential Portuguese dishes, and I think you’ll enjoy them nonetheless.
Me and my friend on our day trip to Lisbon. I got a lot of attention, mostly unwanted, from wearing this skirt. The Portuguese do not show this much skin, apparently. I think I was sending the wrong kind of message about myself by wearing it.