cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Begin With a Beer Nut

Commencer avec une noix de la bièrre - Começar com uma noz de cerveja
Salty Cod in Portugal Series Episode 1
A little yellow bean, she tells me, they are like a nut, not a nut, a fruit? Perhaps a small tomato. No it is a bean, like a nut. A peanut? No a bean nut. You can't get a beer without it, it's standard. They are bean nuts. Bean beer nuts. Vamos. Agora.

Tremoços are their name; the peanut of Portugal. The four days passed in Oporto I admit, were slightly preoccupied by wine bars and port cellars that I never once sat down in a pub bar, thus the allusive beer nut was still on my mind as the train left the Estação Campanhã and arrived three hours later in Lisbon at the Estação Oriente. 29degrees read the mercury. Arriving in Lisbon, for this blue eyed blondey, was meteorologically arriving at the gates of hell. am i seeing double? Perhaps it is the burn, je suis rouge comme un tomat, je pensais. Sitting inside my humid hotel of a hostel at the computer after writing my s.o.s of a 'come save me from this inferno!' whiny email to my personal hot-weather meteorologist expert whose new blog name is bq (beijo queijo), i sat glazzy-eyed for minutes in a daze only broken by a the little whistle of coucou, hey miss foodie would you like to join me and a few friends for snails? Snails? Well, of course I would.

My first question at any hostel reception is: what should i eat, but more specifically, where do you eat? A traveling foodie knows, like any Bourdain fan, that to find what and where to eat in a foreign city, it is singularly crucial to be verbal. id est, food travels by word of mouth. A silent traveler can always find a seat at the hard rock cafe, or space along the tourist track of myriad joints with waiters who pounce and heckle at passers by, thrusting their menus to any and all. with a hotness akin to a Los Angeles coke dealer. Most employees at hostels and hotels are locals, hopefully, and therefore just as likely to know the best place to eat as would the number one food critic in the city.

My conversations all begin as follows: I love to travel for gastronomic discovery, a culture is fascinating to discover through its food, i want to be a food writer, i have a blog, what is your favorite bacalhau dish? I came to this country inspired by a fish. Your fish. Perhaps I may frighten a few, but I procure results. So who in the end matters, what in the end matters? people may raise their brows which may cause your eyes to fall to the ground-- but really how could I expect anyone understand. Just remember there might somewhere be someone who does, and you only need one. Who wants to know somebody who isn't their self. A solo journey is never really solo if you have someone(s) to report back to, and there are always many people helping along the way who twine their path into yours. Make sure you eat dinner with them.

My first night in Lisbon was a bucket full of take out snails bathing in a pool of Douro Valley olive oil and salt, a gift of luck, i was told by the three Lisboans seated around the table, as that very day was the commencement of the snail season. I've rolled my roulette. As the snails disappeared faster than coconut covered pink marshmallows, it was suggested we search more provisions. Ladies you stay, have another beer (me wine. no beer), we'll get some mussels and octopus. What gentlemen. Wait! I cry, I need little yellow beans! I have their name written, just let me...tremoços. Tremoços!? They are beer nuts! they laugh--though with their return was discovered steaming mussels, a cold octopus and parsley salad, and a beer cup filled with little yellow beans, taken directly from the bar.

To eat a tremoços, or lupin or lupini bean--simply hydrate the dried bean in a salted water, throw in a beer cup (Portugal, so either Super Bock or Sagres) bite off a small end, grip the bean between your thumb and first finger, and pop the fleshy seed into your mouth, discarding the empty case in a tremoços ash tray. Beautiful. The little yellow bean. The little yellow interactive bean, as most bar snacks are interactive---breaking a pistachio shell, or cracking open a peanut. A beer snack is a beer snack in any culture, which proves that it is our differences that make our similarities visible.

Where are the tremoços in the US? In France? I promised J I would find them and report back--I will not disappoint. Until then, I leave you with the assurance that Portugal's little yellow bean of simplicity--hydration, makes a snack coveted from north to south, a little magic bean, i believe, that may give jack and his giant a run for their money. Eat a bean, and remember, it is never a shame or embarrassment to ask, even if you can only attempt with the native language, and attempt is a start. And there always has to be a start.

Até logo & A bientôt

This is a late addition: This photo (above) is for Click the Photo Event contest May theme: Beans and lentils. How could little tremocos pass that up. Wish me luck.


Unknown said...

The part about snails reminded me of an I Love Lucy quote...."Waiter, this food has snails in it."
And then of course any time I hear Octopus, I think of D.W. hehe.

Núria said...

Wow, it seems I haven't been taking a look at your blog for long now!
I know tramussos (in catalan) and altramuces (spanish)It's a legume that is not so in fashion nowadays but when my parents were young, they would buy little packages to eat while in the cinema watching a movie!

You had wonderful meals, girl!!!!

bee said...

beautiful post and entry. thank you.