this is the archive for the ‘algarving’ category:


folhado de tavira

you know when things look rather promising and then they turn out to be a disappointment?

yeah. i wanted *so much* to like the cake that bears our new hometown’s name… but in the end, it just wasn’t all that great. i’ve tried it twice now, thinking that perhaps the first try had been a fluke — but i couldn’t finish it in either of the attempts, so i think it’s a lost cause for me.

one has to wonder though, what is the point of a folhado (or puff pastry) that is so saturated in syrup as to ruin all its flakiness and turn it unto an unrecognizable soggy mess? :| why would you do that?

when our friend F came to visit a couple of months ago, he pointed to some in a café and asked what they were made of. the person behind the counter replied “sugar!” and left it at that.

i guess if you like eating sugar, this is good stuff. :D

anatomy of summer

summer came late and then all of a sudden. the roads and the beaches filled with tanned bodies, the scent of sunscreen lotion permeating the air. new voices and accents and honks invading our quiet bubbles, their cars parked every which way down the street.

the hills have gone dry and the children cries alternate between pool-side delight and tired tantrums. grass trimmers and pool motors buzz away, giving the cicadas a run for their money. the swallows come and go, like pendulums over our heads. our bodies stick to chairs during the day and to sheets at night.

our favourite restaurants are full, as are the supermarket’s tills… but we don’t really mind. far from invaders, tourists are powering the workforce of the local communities who live for the summer months. they drive the boats, cook the meals, clean the houses and everything else — and they need these months of business to get through the rest of the year.

but for us, summer is the time to leave it all to them. “when the heat dies down, i’ll be back in town”, as they say. :)

oysters

although the only time we ever ate oysters a few years ago was quite memorable (for the worst reasons), i still think they’re pretty fascinating. how come this contorted ugly shells can produce such smooth interiors and even pearls sometimes?

even the ancient romans were intrigued by them, and decided to farm them off the coast of italy. these days, the local people continue this tradition here in the brackish waters of the ria formosa lagoon.

the whole operation looks surprisingly low-tech. the larvae are grown in tanks and later transfered to these mesh envelopes which are just laid on the floor or in raised beds, and get covered in water when the tide rises. they can stay there for over a year, depending on the size.

and apparently, unlike other forms of aquaculture, oyster farming is actually benign for the environment, as the bivalves filter the water for the bad stuff, at an incredible rate of up to 4 liters/hour.

intriguing as they might be, i think i’ll pass on them for the next few years at least…

gum rock rose

these days, the hills of algarve are covered with the beautiful white flowers of esteva, or gum rock rose. everywhere you look, the landscape is peppered with an explosion of white dots!

the sticky bushes where they grow are tough and not much to look at, but the flowers are such delicate things, tissue-thin and blowing in the wind.

this is such a beautiful season!

salicornia

moving south and next to a salt marsh has introduced a dozen new species of animals and plants into our vocabulary. geckos and chameleons are cute, as are the skittish flamingos that eat all the pink algae in the salt ponds. but it’s not just new animals that inhabit these salty places, special plants too — like salicornia!

also called sea asparagus or pickleweed, salicornia is a halophyte, a plant that is adapted to salty environments. when you bite into it, the saltiness immediately floods your mouth… like eating bits of the sea! the flavour is pleasant enough and the surprise saltiness in every bite makes for a fun addition to salads and other dishes.

it’s a bit of a gourmet thing these days, which is funny because for much of history, salicornia was considered a worthless weed. it reminds me of a Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on the back of one of my field notes:

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

sounds about right!