Mention Bacalhau to a Portuguese and they will instinctively close their eyes and picture a family party with food and wine. They may also start to drool. Salted and dried cod from the coasts of Norway and Canada has made its way to Portugal and become a delicacy. The fish is hard, smells terrible and contains so much salt that it won’t rot in a lifetime. It has to soak in water for days before one can even think of eating it. However, once the salt has been watered out, something interesting happens. The consistency becomes delicate and the smell sweetens. After being mixed with local vegetables and oil, one can’t imagine that it had once been drying on a cliff.
A guidebook asks the question: “Does anyone make bread better than the Portuguese?” A few come close, but there is magic in the flour, yeast and water of any small Portuguese bakery. When visiting Portugal, you can get the light white bread or the much heavier corn bread. Both are unbelievably delicious when fresh. Also, be sure to pick up some Bolos which are sweet pastries that go very well with coffee.
Bullfighting in Portugal is different from the Spanish version as the bull doesn’t get killed in the arena. It is a spectacle worth attending. The toureiro dances around with stamina and elegance with the sharp horns of the bull just grazing his golden shirt. Then the forcados join in and meet the bull face to face and hold him by the horns. A cow or two are let in to the arena as decoys to lead the bull back to the stall. A few years ago, Portugal’s most beloved toureiro, Pedrito, broke the non-killing law and ended a bull’s life with a single stab to the spinal cord. The fans went wild, with men throwing their shirts and shoes into the ring and the women showering him with flowers. The police arrested him, causing riots to break out. He was later ordered to pay a 100,000EUR fine for his deed.
Image of Bacalhau via Sitomon on Flickr