Friday, 17 September 2004

And only UHT milk

It would be absurd to assess the qualities of a holiday destination solely on the basis of what there is to eat when you get there.

However, if the sun isn't shining, the insects are biting, and the baroque churches are beginning to pall, then the prospect of a splendid lunch is really all that there is to make you want to get out of bed in the morning or to stop you from wishing that you'd stayed at home.

I have to say that from recent experience I have the feeling that in these circumstances northern Portugal is not the very best place in the world to be. It's not that Portuguese cooking is bad; the goat stew is, well, OK, the sardines are nice (though not always properly gutted, and apparently best eaten early in the summer), and we had a few pleasant dishes and a memorable octopus in red wine. But some misconceptions are cherished here: for example, that boiled potatoes and rice, together, are a perfect accompaniment to any meal, that stewed pork is made more exciting if you throw a few clams in with it, and that if you call cod bacalhau it automatically becomes interesting, however boringly you cook it.

So, kind and friendly as the Portuguese people are, there is no denying that their cuisine is among the dullest in Europe.

My wife can be counted on to get the very best out of any situation, but there she could only make a rather sad proposal as we pored over a depressing menu identical with a dozen others we had seen: "We really must investigate the vegetable soup" she said, brightly.

5 comments:

Gerry said...

Oh the jaded traveller...

Things are going too well for you, Tony...

When I were a lad...

Tony said...

Unfair, Gerry. I am neither effete nor blasé. It's not so long since the days when the potato peelings sometimes ran out and I used to dream of having vegetable soup.

lucretia pepper said...

hello, hello, HEEEELLLOOOOO. Oh, how good to hear another Brit saying such things about Portuguese cuisine. It is THE thing they will not be criticized about, and the only thing they say to me is, OH but your national dish is fish'n'chips. Blimey. If only they really knew, (sadly, most tourists to the UK eat the frozen crap in pubs, I suppose). Bread, rice and potatoes in one meal, and they wonder why colesterol levels are high!

Gerry said...

Right. When I were a lad, I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.

So there !!!

Nigel said...

Well, at least you didn't have to eat any cozido à portuguesa.