this is the archive for the ‘in portugal’ category:


giving blood

despite not being a big fan of needles, i’ve been giving blood since they started doing blood drives in university, back in the day. after moving abroad, we started doing them once a year, our christmas vacations back home always punctuated by a detour to give blood, followed by a trip to the dentist (in that order, otherwise no blood donation!).

ever since moving back though, we’ve been doing them more often, helped by the nearness of faro’s hospital and the nice people that work in the blood department there. although we barely know them, the regularly spaced meetings and intimate questions help to quickly break the ice. even if the boy isn’t giving blood on that specific day (sometimes they don’t need his “special” blood), the doctor will still ask how the husband has been doing… quickly followed by a very pro forma “and have you had sex with anyone else lately”? XD

besides the good karma and not having to pay medical fees, after giving blood 10 times one also gets a mini-diploma… although, in true bureaucratic fashion, it ends up arriving much later. still, it’s pretty neat and this week it was my turn to pick up mine!

i know it’s just a piece of fancy paper, but it still feels like a pat in the back for a job well done. besides, now i’m a certified people’s saver! :)

speaking of which, did you hear the news about mr. harrison, the man with the golden arm? he has a rare antibody in his blood, from which a treatment for rh incompatibility could be made in australia. he retired from blood donating last week at 81, after 1173 donations — and after having saved over 2 million babies with the “vaccine” made from his blood — the same vaccine that my mom took after having me, as our bloods’ rh types are incompatible.

hurray for science and blood donors!

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!

maios

in the north of portugal, the first of may is usually greeted with “maias”, showy yellow flowers that bloom around this time of the year which the local people hang in doors… but in the south, the tradition is much more convoluted! meet the maios:

they’re like “scarecrows” that the local people make and sit in the streets or in their doorstep, usually accompanied by a short rhyme telling of a wise tale or sometimes a bit of political criticism. we passed these in a nearby town that was filled with them in every corner… and so we had to stop to have a look. :)

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. :)

dom rodrigo

yesterday at a restaurant over lunch, a british lady sitting with a group of friends on the table next to ours asked the waitress for a dessert recommendation, “something typical!“, she said. the waitress pointed to one of the few items on the menu that didn’t have a photo and said “try this — you’re going to like it. if you don’t, you don’t have to pay!“. she laughed and ordered it.

while we waited for our food to show up, i wondered what she had recommended… and then when she came over carrying a mysterious tinfoil pyramid, i knew she’d made a good choice. the group of friends ooooh’d and aaah’d at the contraption while she twisted and unwrapped the surprise package until an unappetising “nest” emerged. urged by the waitress, she hesitantly scooped a bit onto her fork… and then proceeded to gobble the whole thing in a flash! :)

dom rodrigo

dom rodrigo is a traditional sweet from the south of portugal, consisting of (what else!) egg yolks and sugar, sprinkled with a bit of almond. the yolks are turned into angel hair, delicate golden strands drenched in a syrupy concoction of almond and more yolks.

here’s the boy opening his:

it looks like a mess and would probably be a hard sell were it merely scooped onto a plate, but the fanciness of the package gives an almost dignified air to the whole thing.

not that it matters how it looks because the taste of it… goodness. those gooey strands are the thing of dreams! they melt in your mouth and leave nothing behind but sweetness, the faintest hint of cinnamon, and a crave for the next hit.

dom rodrigo

a couple of scoops later and it feels like it’s over before it even started. soon enough you’ll find yourself trying not to lick the paper!