Saturday, January 19, 2013

Learn the Language (Part 2)

I like to cook, and I like to think I am familiar with a lot of the major cuisines of Europe.  I have learned some food terms in different languages, and I try to brush up on the words for foods I particularly like before we head off to our next destination.  This has served me well when traveling in France, Spain, Italy, and other countries whose food has inundated American culture. (ok - maybe not so successful in Spain - see part 1) Finding a menu posted outside a restaurant that translates the dishes into reasonable English helps too.  This did not work as well when we went to Portugal last year.  I realized when we arrived that I had no idea what food was served there.  It was quite a learning experience, as we encountered menus with food terms we did not understand.  There was, however, always fish.  Very fresh fish, usually grilled whole and simply prepared with olive oil and salt.  Different fish were popular in different regions, but salt cod (bacalhau) was a constant everywhere.  What more did we need??   We returned home with the impression that fish was what was eaten in Portugal. 

They didn't have what I ordered, so the waiter brought this out.  Pescadinha - it was delicious!

Before this second trip, we did a little homework.  We bought a cookbook of Portuguese dishes.  We looked up food terms.  We LEARNED THE LANGUAGE.  So when we sat down for our first meal in Lisbon, we were excited to see that there were many, many options besides our beloved fish.  Pork, beef, chicken, omelets - even salads.  It is amazing what you can find when you know what you are looking for.  We discovered dishes like Iscas (pork liver), Bitoque (beef steak with a fried egg on top) and my personal favorite, Porco com Ameijoas a Alentejana (pork with clams from Alentejo).  Maybe by our next trip there we will be ready to tackle the truly regional dishes, and maybe, just maybe we will be able to pronounce their names correctly.

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