Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hometown Holidays: The Food

Portuguese people live for food. I mean it. It's not a hyperbole. There are no rules when it comes to stuff our stomach. We simply love to pig out, even if that involves regurgitating at some point or the eventual heartburn. So this Christmas was really THE FEAST. Eat 'til you drop, that's what I told the girls. You see, it's a simple, modest, humble home but my mammy doesn't mess around in the kitchen. Her cooking is Michelin star-worthy, she's the best traditional cook ever and if you think I'm a hard-to-impress bitch with high standards, you obviously haven't tried food as scrumptious as Laurinha's. Her passion for food is inspiring and something I take very seriously. I find it impossible to copycat her cooking skills, and everything tastes bland and boring compared to her grilled chicken (if you think Nando's is the real deal, there is something deeply wrong with you) or the rich octopus salad with boiled eggs and avocado dressing. Seasoning, cooking, digesting... it's all a ritual. Thank fuck we had some Rennie, strong tasty black coffee and liquor to help us digest... We ended up like pythons after devouring an entire lamb, unable to stand or even move. Food high!

For starters, feast your eyes on these beauties: gigantic Jurassic-looking mussels (the garlicky lemon white wine sauce was to die for), delicious cockles and oysters we shucked ourselves with a kitchen knife. We really brought the flavour of the sea to our tastebuds with this shellfish feast. Those crab claws were yummy too, add some fresh bread and butter for some heavenly pairing. Crustaceans are my most recent crush. Also, look at that cheeeeese covered in dill and thyme! YUM. Mice would prostitute themselves for a bite of that, I tell ya. Shame on me for not photographing the enormous pomegranates we had as a midmeal snack - so sweet.

Prawns piri-piri were only the chapter 1 of a gluttony party that went on for several hours. Fried cod with coriander and caramelised onions certainly made an impression on the guests but my personal favourite and the winner of the evening was roast duck rice with orange slices (the juiciest, sweetest oranges you can possibly imagine, providing a refreshing citric contrast to this epic dish) and smoked chouriço. God almighty, that shredded duck still haunts my dreams, it's one of the heartiest comfort meals we all could ever experience.

There were a few surprises that made my eyes (and stomach) sparkle. Fried cod cakes stuffed with parsley, coriander, garlic and potato mash... OH.MY.FUCKING.GOD! So, so good! An absolute winner. My mam's rice with beans - homefuckin'made, obviously - was just perfect and basically something I'd eat on a regular basis since it's Winter and carbs come in handy. Now, let's talk about squid skewers. I remember eating them when I was a kid but I think I love them more now. Bacon, peppers, squid bits, onions, chouriço... all grilled and put together for the sake of gluttony. The sauce was a lovely cocktail of olive oil, garlic, butter and lemon. Trust me, it can't get any better than this.

And then there was pork. I'm not a huge fan of pork but my genius mother can bring out the best of anything, just get her the right ingredients and she will seduce the foodies with her memorable seasoning. We've had bifanas for lunch - it's a simple sandwich, really, the secret is in the way the pork is marinated. Expect a lot of garlic, white wine and mustard. Christ on a cross, it's a heavenly snack and it's as Portuguese as it gets. Wash it down with a cold beer and you'll know what I'm talkin' about. Roast pork with pineapple in a mustardy beer sauce was also a majestic meal that we still ate in the day after since it was still tender, tasty and juicy as fuck. And I repeat, pork isn't even my thing.

One word: quails. When properly seasoned and cooked, magic happens. My tastebuds can still remember that soy, garlic and wine sauce. These birds really made up for the absence of suckling pig (ah, the sticky glaze, the crispy crackling... I could write poems about it).

As you can imagine, there is ALWAYS room for dessert. Always. There's no other way. There were many cakes, dried figs with almonds and of course many digestion helpers like moscatel, Port wine and ginjinha in chocolate cups. We got liquored up and sugar high - the highlight of the entire week was my mam's chocolate mousse with walnuts, hazelnuts and brandy. Pure gooey chocolate porn. I could watch that shade of brown forever. My birthday cake was also a surprise: strawberry (or raspberry!?) cheesecake. One year older but still eating like a pig in stained pyjamas and very gladly wearing the dinosaur socks my mam offered me. So, are you drooling yet?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

2016 will not be missed. As usual, there are no new year resolutions for 2017, as I live in the now, in the present, in the moment. Future is just a delayed present and it wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for us humans inventing the concept of time.

This year, I swam in the Irish Sea and in the Atlantic. I've dropped my mobile phone TWICE in the toilet (it survived to tell the story). I've seen some sort of UFO (Alina said it looked like a pussy in the sky). I got food poisoning from oysters TWICE this Summer but was stubborn enough to try them again and it was fine - turns out it was just bad luck. I saw Mitski, Le Butcherettes, Peaches and, more importantly, the notorious Grace Jones live - needless to say, it was the best show I've ever witnessed. I didn't date anyone at all, instead I netflixed by myself, ate my weight in salted caramel and watched my Canadian flatmate twerking to DMX while the dog wiped his snout in my robe like it's a giant napkin already stained with mulled wine. I've managed to tame the highs and lows of this perpetual rollercoaster that is my life - to an extent. I've danced to Prince, I've cried to George Michael, I've toasted to Bowie and Leonard Cohen all together in electric dreams. I've listened way too much to Dead or Alive so Pete Burns is still more alive than dead in my 80s imaginary Neverland.

I ate moules frites in Belgium, falafels and space cakes in Rotterdam, buttermilk pancakes in Galway, crayfish in Howth, and tuna paté in Lagos. Much to my dismay, I didn't find myself free to unleash my wanderlust wings - there wasn't enough time or money. But hey, I'm not homeless or unemployed (yet!) so let's focus on the bright side of things.

I hid under the Christmas tree after too much Benylin, I climbed Bray Head, I spotted a fox in my backyard, I went to a really interesting Astronomy lecture in Trinity College and then had pizza and Peroni before heading home by myself, transfixed by the night lights mirrored in the Liffey. I went to White Rock Beach for the first time.

It was a lukewarm year, 2016.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hometown Holidays

Guess what, I went back to Portugal for Christmas + Birthday Bash, this time bringing my fabulous friends from Dublin, so they could join me in a neverending feast before becoming brandymel-drinking pirates. Medronho, empty beaches, golden rocks, moscatel and my mother's coffee were already in my dreams the night before our arrival.

Revisiting Lagos always makes me feel nervous - I call it the hometown jitters. The prospect of facing fragments of my past in a town where there's nothing left of or for me, apart from all the memories and the dusty bittersweetness of what was once my life. My core belongs to Lagos in a way that makes me feel like I'm coming back home even though my home is now somewhere else. Seeing my parents and my best friends who I know for nearly 20 years is comforting and brings warmth to my longing heart. I learn to appreciate their company with special intensity and gratitude because distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder, seriously. When you've been away for so long, you recognise what you left behind and what you kept from there when you went away. Oh, and suddenly you behave like a tourist, photographing places you used to pass by and ignore. Distance makes me actually enjoy this sort of paradise where nothing happens but also where one can escape real life for a while.

Ah, fuck, these few days spent back home (or ex-home, whatever) were just the well deserved break I needed. Swimming in the wavy Atlantic under a blinding sunshine, petting all those stray dogs wandering around in packs (one of them looked exactly like Vladimir Putin), broken shells cutting my feet covered in wet sand and seaweed, flamingo pink sunset reflecting its dying sunlight on the ocean and on the dunes, dancing kalinka after a few bottles of cheap delicious red wine, catcalling men after they did the same to us in the most cro-magnon fashion, shots of amarguinha with lemon and long afternoons of low tide and sea glitter. All of it, I wished some of those moments could've last forever but such moments must stay where they belong, between turquoise sea and sky, in a horizon we can reach every now and then if we don't succumb to some claustrophobic attack during the demonic Ryanair flight.

Post-holiday blues are kicking in and George Michael's death was really the serotonine killer of the month, hence the melancholy. Keep your friends and family close to you, never take anything for granted and good fucking riddance to 2016. Now, back to reality.