Thursday, June 24, 2010


Obrigada is Portuguese for thank you. Thank you doesn't quite cover it, but it will do. Lisbon is a gracious place, filled with soft sunlight, breathtaking views, gentle breezes, incredible architecture, and my favorite sign of life, laundry hanging out the window. I'm not sure why anyone would want to leave here. I certainly don't.

I've discovered a wonderful secret to happy travels. In the past I have wandered around a bit thinking I have to absorb and enjoy the historic monuments, castles and miscellany that supposedly defines a place. It was always an exhausting experience for me, and I have never felt like a good tourist or traveler. This time, however, by focusing on food and gardens I have come alive as a tourist! Every time I see a garden I am filled with happiness like a surge of energy and I am fueled once again. Truly, my love is for gardens and growing things.

Monica, my friend and colleague is hosting me here in Lisbon and she also has taken seriously the charge to show me Lisbons gardens and foodways. Our first meal together was a traditional Portugeuse soup made from purslane (beldroegas). Now, most gardeners find purslane the bane of their existence. It's a colonizing plant and therefore will enthusiastically cover bare ground. Naturally. It's bad for dirt to be bare, so its important that plants like purslane cover it up. We can work with this need for covering the soil and enjoy the benefits of free greens too.

Beldroegas, as it's called here is actually for sale in the organic shops. One year I could have made a fortune selling the stuff that was growing in my garden. I started eating it because it was the only thing that was growing. I didn't know it was a delicacy, super nutritious or part of any cuisine.

This soup is simple, and according to Monica is made special with the addition of oregano and a salty, strong goat cheese that is reminiscent of queso fresco. The soup starts with a base of onions and garlic and the purslane is added and cooked in water til tender. Oregano, cilantro and salt and pepper season it, and the cheese is added at the very end. Serve with crunchy bread, more cheese, tinned fish and wine. Simple, healthful and with ingredients freely offered from the earth.

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