Food, glorious(?) food
Decision Day Approacheth.... (58)
One of the big draws to Portugal for us was the food. Everything we read and heard was a total winner. We had been talking for some time about how to have a more healthful diet. Restaurants in St. Louis know we love becoming friends of those who are doing fun things with food. Great flavors, fresh vegetables, and fish hours from the ocean, what’s not to love? So how has Portugal measured up for us?
We have travelled extensively throughout the United States and eaten as much local cuisine as we could find (looking at you, Alpine Hills restaurant in the Black Hills of South Dakota that serves ONLY large or small filet mignon wrapped in bacon). When we went to Mexico we stayed with families, ate street food, were blessed to have one person we were staying with take us to the tiniest, ancient stone basement where all they served was mezcal. In England we loved the squeak and bubble at the local pub (ok, if it came from a local pub, we were all over it). So we were excited to have at Portuguese food!
Did you grow up with meat and potatoes? You are going to feel right at home. For those of us who are trying to eat more vegetables, this has been a surprise and a challenge. Oh, did we mention that despite Portuguese control of the spice routes, somehow they managed to avoid using any spice in their own foods?
Two coasts! Much fishing. Many fishes and many fish dishes! Having spent 40 years on the northeast coast of the United States before moving to the Midwest, we were very excited to get back to fish! Upon arrival, though, we were much confused. Here’s cod:
We spend a lot of time translating the fish names into English and then googling what that fish is. So far, we have not liked the fishes we have tried here.
But there’s shellfish! Who doesn’t love shellfish? Which is why we ordered a well-recommended, all-you-can-eat shellfish smorgasbord. If you are a shrimp lover, it’s possible the prawn (which is what we’ve found here) may not be the substitute you are hoping for. And the oysters sourced here are quite different from the east coast oysters you may be used to. Please note as well that fried, which we all know is not as healthy for you but sure does taste right, is not here.
We were disappointed with the vegetables. Or veg as our Brit friends say. We have found fantastic pre-packaged salads (chicken or tuna, etc.) that are fresh and tasty and inexpensive and widely available. Beyond that….. They’re not cheap, or fresh, or many varieties. That said, we have not been to many of the markets yet as they are not close. The ones we have seen are mainly fish, with the majority of the remainder fruit, and then a smaller portion for veg. We will do a better report on the markets when we get to more.
Polar opposite with fruit - we arrived to pop-up fruit stands, in addition to fruitarias, and of course robust fruit sections in the supermarkets. Best grapes we’ve ever eaten, best bing cherries (and we’ve travelled Washington state during cherry harvest and ended up with a purple tongue to prove it).
At least until fall/winter came. The apples here are very limited in varities. Fruit in the United States stays pretty good, if more expensive, throughout the colder season as it comes from different regions of the Americas. Here, though, it’s harder to tell where the fruit is coming from and it doesn’t taste as good as it did in the summer.
Fortunately in the cities there are plenty of other restaurants. Vegan, vegetarian, Tibetan, Persian, Lebanese, Asian Fusion (listing here our favorite restaurants, in no particular order). You name it, you can find it. Small problem - they’re all more expensive than we’re used to. For those who are used to these types of restaurants being less expensive and who are perhaps overly fiscally conservative, this is harsh.1
Cooking from Home
But there’s cooking at home right? We have a ton of bean recipes, since these are the cheapest and the most nutritious. We weren’t prepared for how hard it would be to find many of the ingredients in these recipes. And we all know that hard to find means $$$.
We’re seven months in, fairly oriented, and probably the biggest challenge we have is food. (The good news is that Scott has lost a lot of weight.) Finding vegetables other than the basics, finding inexpensive restaurants that serve healthy and tasty food is going to be something we consider as we approach Decision Day.
That’s all for now.
Love from Lisbon,
Amy & Scott
We moved from St. Louis, one of the least expensive places to live in the US, to probably the most expensive place in Portugal. Our monthly expenditures overall have been about the same here as they were before we left. Most of the American expats we’ve met are from the coasts - often the left one - and they frequently gush over how much cheaper it is to live here.