If there’s one thing I truly love that is food. It’s one of the main reasons why I like to explore around (and again you know my definition of exploring means both next door as well as travel away). I guess this is also a reflection of the country I grew up: Portugal. Food is part of our culture. It’s always a reason to gather friends and celebrate.
I was actually shocked by the fact that in London English people rarely invite others home and cook together a meal. From one hand I suspect that’s because of the lack of space, not everyone can afford to rent a flat, and a flat that allows some space for friends to come over. I recognise that. But after talking to a few guys at work, it’s simply not so much the culture either. When people want to see friends they will go mostly to a pub or a nice restaurant. I admit it’s way more convenient! The other thing that took me a while to guess used to was drinks after work: how can one stand hours standing and drinking and no food? Once I’ve finally learnt it, I’ve started to eat before going to the social drinks and not to stay that late so I could still grab a proper dinner.
One of the things I missed the most about living in Lisbon, is to gather friends around in my flat, have a meal together and some drinks too. I’ve started to do that over the last few years, but if I circle around my group of friends most of them are expats same as me! Although I love to try new restaurants (and London is such a paradise for that!!!) I find myself craving for the simplest foods and again that’s because at home we would eat simple. No fuss, just using ingredients from our backyard (which my granddad still maintains!). There was a point my grandma also had chickens and ducks, so I was spoiled with this amazing fresh food all around me. We would also go to the city and buy fish as it would arrive from the fisherman. And whatever my grandparents didn’t have they would exchange with the neighbours. They still do that and I find it’s absolutely beautiful! Oh, I feel that I’m being teleported back in time, to my own childhood memories.
So I was absolutely spoiled food-wise, mostly by my grandma and there was a point I was a bit picky with the food. On the days they would cook grilled sardines (which I hate since I remember even if I really love the smell), my grandma would always prepare scrambled eggs for us. And I can’t think of better scrambled eggs than those with fresh eggs! (probably those available since the morning from her chicken!) It’s no wonder scrambled eggs is one of my favourite brunches! My sister is crazy about them as I am. In the meantime I’ve upgraded her version by using chopped cherry tomato, but it still makes me smile as both of us would try to finish soup or whatever so we could then get our hands on the eggs!
My grandma, my dad and me are crazy about spaghetti tomato. Seriously, if there’s a food I crave quite often this is it. And I mean, it’s literally just that, fresh pasta and tomato sauce using the tomatoes from our garden (which up to this point, I never found any better than those out there!) I could eat this every single day! She would then sparkle it with coriander… ah so delicious! My mom says I really love pasta because at the time she was pregnant of me she was working at an Italian restaurant and she would have access to delicious pasta, pizza, coffee and ice creams. I suspect she’s right because I crave all of that.
And I’m not talking about any pizza, I’m talking about the memories of making pizza with my dad. We would prepare everything from the scratch, from the dough to our own sauce creations. We would do a mess in the kitchen and my mom would most likely complain about it, but it was so nice to spend a few hours together in the kitchen talking and preparing pizza. Later on, we’ve ended up using the hand-mixer to make it easier to prepare the dough (with the swirls)
Once I didn’t connected the “swirls” very well into the machine, so when the dough was almost ready, one of the swirls disconnected and went flying straight to the bin with the dough attached to it. We’ve giggled loads on how stupid that was and we had to restart. We had quite a late dinner that night. It still makes me giggle after all these years.
Bread and Olive Oil
I love love love bread. Crunchy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. I still remember the sound of the baker’s van as he would deliver fresh bread into our house every day. I would come running down the stairs and feast in the bread, either with butter or after lunch with olive oil. Let’s just say I was not very hungry at the main meals, because I couldn’t resist the bread! My favourite meal was the afternoon one (let’s call it afternoon tea). I would have a glass of fresh milk and 2 huge slices of bread with butter and cheese. Or in some of the festivals we would have access to the stone baked chorizo bread.
Oh so good! Give me bread, good olive oil and I’m happy.
Forget the Swiss roll, this is way way better! My grandma’s bakery is something that will always give me found memories. All her cakes are absolutely amazing, but I have a special place in my heart for her almond roll. In Algarve, most of our sweets have a link to almond, typically almond and eggs, and her roll… ahhh so moist and good! If we would go on a picnic, she would always prepare one. If it was someone’s birthday, she would do it as well. Oh yes, our birthday parties were legendary. I’m sure most of my friends would only come because they would have access to so many good cakes. We would have cakes for weeks around our birthdays. It’s quite silly that I have never attempted to prepare this one, maybe because I don’t want to spoil the memory. Maybe next time will try to skype with her so she can guide me through, as her recipe book is like Mary Berry’s instructions, it doesn’t say almost anything!!!
I’m sure I’ve shared this a million times, but one of the things I crave the most if coffee. Anything coffee flavoured! My mom would give me a small cup full of milk and add a drop of coffee and I would delight on it. I’m not sure when I’ve started to drink espressos, but way before I had any cravings for wine. Every weekend we would always go out after lunch to a nearby cafe so my parents could have espresso and I would have my milk with coffee (and ice creams in summer time). It’s mostly after lunch that I miss a good strong espresso as it does help digest. And I just love the flavour 🙂
Does food brings you back childhood memories? What was your favourite dish back then?