this is the archive for the ‘foooood’ category:


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…

the passionfruit chronicles

i don’t think i’ve ever met a fruit i didn’t like, but passionfruit feels special. the taste is the definition of exotic in my book — sweet and alien-like.

they’re supposed to be fast-growing plants that enjoy heat, and therefore ideal for our southern climate. last year, a neighbor down the street gave us a couple of his own fruits to eat… but having seen their vigorous vines, we jumped at the opportunity to grow our own. we started them in a container back in 2016 and saw first sprouts some weeks later:

we planted them out in the front garden just under the fence, so that they had something to hold on to. after some dormant months, they begun their ascent in the spring of 2017…

fast forward to a year later, and they have taken over the whole thing. had we known they would insist in growing upwards at every chance, we would have made a better effort to pull them sideways while we could… well, too late now.

we also have our first flowers! they’re super pretty, as all passionfruit flowers are. incidentally, did you know where their name comes from? according to wikipedia,

“Around 1700, the name was given by missionaries in Brazil as an educational aid while trying to convert the indigenous inhabitants to Christianity; its name was flor das cinco chagas or “flower of the five wounds” to illustrate the crucifixion of Christ, with other plant components also named after an emblem in the Passion of Jesus.

The name maracuyá or maracujá comes from a Guaraní word meaning “nursery for flies”.

and just this week, we spotted the first fruit! i can’t wait to finally taste it and strike another item off the 101 list! :P

cerelac

i mentioned cerelac in my last post about powdered food, and then i thought: how come i haven’t written about something so portuguese?!

every country has its own way to feed babies, and for a while in portugal, the staple was a fortified, sweet cereal concoction that toddlers inevitably fell in love with. the texture and taste are so reminiscent of a certain period of our childhood that nowadays, i think it’s mostly consumed by nostalgic adults who can’t get its catchy jingle out of their heads… :P

the whole thing was brought to portugal by egas moniz, our medicine nobel. he was a big fan of nestlé’s ideas and got the licensing to produce this particular kind of baby food in his hometown of avanca, where years prior he had set up a milk powder plant. over the years, he adapted cerelac’s formula to the national tastes and started using milk from the azores.

over 80 years later, cerelac is still being made there and exported to lots of countries, delighting children grown-ups all around the world. :)

a week of powdered food

a while back, we spent a week eating just meal replacements, for the sake of the experiment. i love self-experimenting and stuff like soylent intrigued me… so after some reddit research, we ordered a bunch of jimmy joy and just went for it!

on a monday morning bright and early, we made our first plenny shake with lukewarm water, adjusting the quantities to our daily needs.

i confess the taste was my biggest fear — would it be too sweet? too grainy or gritty? turns out, neither! they all taste vaguely like oatmeal with hints of fruit or chocolate and definitely don’t feel weird or too sweet. the consistency is that of a thickened milkshake, and the best description we could come up with for the taste was “watered-down cerelac” — not a bad thing in my book! we tried all their current flavors: banana, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, mango, plain and cappuccino (with coffee), and even mixed a bit of leftover powder to make a sort of tutti-frutti flavor. :D they were all ok, some more true to their flavor than others, but never overpowering or off-putting. banana was our favorite, with vanilla and chocolate being close seconds.

we had 3 meals per day and tried to space our meals more or less 5 hours apart, so we could have a break in the middle of the day, and ended up not feeling particularly hungry at any time. turns out, drinking a thick milkshake can be quite filling! we drank ours in the terrace, enjoying the sunshine and getting some extra vitamin D in the process.

so… did we like it? unexpectedly, yes — a lot! :D

after giving it a try, i can definitely understand the allure on different levels, but especially if someone lacks the time, skills or motivation to cook. as every adult who leaves their parent’s home quickly discovers, cooking (and cleaning!) is a time-consuming activity which you end up doing most days of your life. so by not having to shop, cook or clean, one can easily save some time. it also makes it super easy to make sure you get all the nutrition and calories you need (and not more), which can be hard if you’re normally not in control of the things you eat, or you’re always on the go.

actually not having to worry about food, made me realize how much i worried about food on a normal week. even with our very streamlined meals (we mostly eat eggs for breakfast or soup for dinner, for instance), i would randomly find myself thinking about whether i had something prepared, or whether i had remembered to defrost the soup… before reminding myself that i didn’t have to do that.

some friends asked us whether it was boring, and it’s hard to say. i like eating, and i enjoy a good meal, but if i’m being honest, 80% of the meals we eat are nothing to write home about — just a way to get nutrition in our bodies. so eating the same thing over and over for a while doesn’t really bother me — but i guess it could be different for different people.

another thing we were asked was whether it was expensive, and honestly, i don’t think so. i ordered €80’s worth of meal replacements which i thought would last us a week, but we ended up using less than that after adjusting for nutrition, so maybe €70/week would have been a better estimation. my grocery bill for a week of meals for 2 doesn’t usually go that high… but in the end, i don’t think the difference is that significant, especially when you factor in the time saved.

the one thing i didn’t like about it was all the plastic packaging. as someone who shops mostly in the farmer’s market, i’m able to avoid most wrappings and just shove produce into my basket or re-use the same plastic bags until they fall apart. but with meal replacements, that’s impossible and it bothers me. so for now, a compromise: we’re using them as planters for all the cuttings we’re growing at the moment, extending the packaging’s lifespan until they end up in the recycling bin.

the plants seem to like it too! :)

ps – funny enough, on the week we did this experiment, our gas company decided to do some impromptu repairs which left us gas-less for most of the day. no problem though — we didn’t need it!

pain de sucre

everyone has seen the famous sugarloaf mountain in brasil, but do you know where its name comes from? here’s a clue…

it’s sugarloaf, or pão de açucar! we found them in carrefour in morocco, and i had never seen one in my life. apparently, this is how sugar used to be sold in most places up until the 20th century, and they still sell it there. the cones are big (around 2kg each) and can be grated or chiseled, breaking off small pieces to use.

we probably had it on the numerous cups of mint tea we consumed there!