Of blessings and gratitude and praise for what's ours - an ode to regional produce and the sharing of good news
I honestly hope this post does not turn out to be about something other than food, seeing that this is, well... a food blog! But let me tell you, it's not looking too good. I have been distracted and excited with other things, and food has, since the sevententh of May, become one of the furthest things from my mind. I still eat and cook everyday, because I have to, of course, but I assure you that since the beggining of this week my focus and energy have been centered around my writing, and I have been too preoccupied with that to even consider cooking something more elaborate and shooting it for the blog. I have so many photos to edit hidden away in a folder you have no idea. But I have been wasting my time with feeling elated, excited, proud of myself and ever so grateful for all my blessings and my life and the people in it that have helped and supported me getting where I am right this moment, especially my husband. And do I have a lot to be grateful for!
So yeah, honestly I am grateful and thankful for good regional products that serve as a "lifesaver" when I get myself into a pinch like this. I am grateful that we can allow ourselves to sometimes indulge in a meal that has not been homecooked and would not be regarded as healthy, or properly nourishing, or even appropriate fare for everyday. It's once in a while. So as far as I'm concerned, it's fine by me! See, living in Portugal to me does mean I get to have access to some fabulous stuff, from some breathtaking regions. There's the cheeses, and if you're a cheese lover like I am - just don't give me roquefort, please! - you will swoon over portuguese cheeses. There's so much to choose from, every region having their own specialities, their own traditions, their way of making and presenting them. I'm rather particular to Serra da Estrela cheeses, those oozing from the inside as soon as you cut into them, buttery and tasty, spreadable over good regional bread. But since I'm not very picky, I kind of love them all, I just don't eat Azores cheese, because it doesn't sit well with me, although I only drink Azores milk. Go figure.
The northern regions also grab my heart by the strings when it comes to cheese, and I spent my second trimester of pregnancy gobbing down cheeses from Trás-os-Montes like there was no tomorrow. But usually, I go for Alentejo's cheeses. Maybe because I get to travel there a lot more often than the rest of the country. They're salty, these cheeses, and tangy. But there's a sweetness to them as well, and they sometimes seem to capture the sunshine inside their rind. I like nothing better than a cheese platter and some wine on a Saturday night, along with a few other choicy nibbles. Not every Saturday, of course, but when we do indulge, it is a blessing I am always grateful for. That's how much I love my cheese and wine! It always seems to bring a little bit of sun and warmth ito my home!
Now, with wine the story is one and one alone: I am all for Alentejo. When it comes to wines, I prefer mine to be from this region - look, I love foreign wines as well, and I love discovering foreign wines, but they will never taste better than a good Alentejo wine that tastes of Summer and heat and sunshine and lazy days. They taste of holidays. They're mellow and sweet, they're full bodied when red, they're crisp when white, they fill your mouth with memories that you never lived through but seem to be your own, they tell a story of long, warm nights and grilled fish and salads for dinner, and bare feet and sundresses and love and laughter and joy, and the sense of gratitude for simply being alive. They're full of life, as far as I'm concerned. And I love them the more for that. But this is my opinion, and other people will feel this way about different types of wine!
And then there's the 'empadas de Arraiolos' - the Arraiolos chicken pies, Arraiolos being far more famous for its pretty rugs. I cannot resist these. That pastry that seems creamy somewhat, but flaky as well, the filling, chunk after chunk after chunk of chicken and chorizo piled high until the pie seems to be about to burst, the mere scent of one is enough to drive me into a Pavlovian reaction of sorts. I could eat these pies all day long and then roll myself down a hill and be happy. No, not really, but you get my point. There's a tradition in these, in the making of these, and that is what makes it all better. This is ours, this is Portuguese and we should embrace it and be proud, and we should sing its praises and we should share them with the world. I sometimes long to share what's ours through this blog, especially the wines and the cheeses.
And the olives! There's no other olive as good as a fat, ripe Alentejo olive, seasoned to perfection. There's no other olive oil as good as Alentejo olive oil. Again, it all tastes of heatwaves, of sunshine, of warmer days and calm, and rest, and life lived at a pace that simply mellows out the heart. There's beauty in that, and there's beauty inside a bottle of olive oil, and the golden liquid is like a jewel at your table, and sometimes it's so good you can't resist dowsing a chunk of bread in it and eating it. And there's nothing better to cook with than good olive oil, trust me. It will always make your food sing, and it will always enhance its flavours. I also long to share our olive oils through this blog, that's our grateful I am for all the wonderful regional products we have here. This is a beautiful country, all in all, this is a country of good, good things.
So there's not a single recipe for me to share with you guys today, because, frankly, I have had to deal with other stuff - still dealing!! Stuff that actually makes me glad to get out of bed in the morning, stuff that does bring a smile to my face, despite the hassle and the trouble it's been causing, stuff that makes me proud and grateful. Grateful for the life I lead, for being able to invest my time and work into something I love, and that is writing. When I sit back and take a good look at my life, there's no chance I can't be grateful for it, there's no chance I can't think I am privileged and lead a very good life. Maybe it is a question of perspective as I am sure there are lots of people who would regard my life as sad: a woman of 43 who is financially "dependant" of a man, a woman who has no job, and spends her life picking up after a husband and a child, cooking and cleaning and living in function of them, a woman who hardly ever goes anywhere and never travels and can never afford stuff... I'm sure that seen from this perspective, my life must sound daunting!
But the way I see it is far from that, and I always think of those people who have it hard, really hard, who are going through such heavy stuff right now, and I can't not be grateful that I have such an easy time after all. Sure, I have had to make choices: instead of traveling during our holidays I choose to be able to have my son come home for lunch instead of having him eat at the school canteen; instead of affording expensive garments, I choose to afford good wines and cheeses and olive oil; instead of having a career on the outside world and getting a paycheck and promotions and all the rest that it entails, I chose to stay home and blog and write. Maybe there's not a lot to show for it - asside my mental health and low stress levels, that is! - but there's a sense of acomplishment, that has reached a new high this week with the publishing of my first - let's hope it's not the last! - ebook!
Ok, so I wasn't invited by a big publishing house into publishing a book, there will be no hardcover nor paperback edition of said book, it's a self published ebook over at Kindle, but it's my book, and I loved writing that book, and even though it may be crap, I still love that story and those characters - at least it doesn't make me cringe, not yet, talk to me in two years' time and it may be a different tune I'm singing! It took me a year to finally decide to publish this, from the moment I started writing it to the moment I wrote down the final words, it was a whirlwind I had imposed on myself of finishing the thing off in a month. I did. But the truth is, writing 'The End' at the bottom of a page does not mean it is the end of the whole thing. I had a lot of revising to do, a lot of editing, and everytime I picked it up, I ended up changing whole chapters. So it's no wonder it took me a year to simmer it all and only now have I decided to try and publish it. If I say it's no biggie, look, I'd be lying, to me it is a biggie, it is a moment of joy and I feel proud of mysef for it, for writing the thing, and publishing the thing and even doing the cover for the thing myself, even if everyone who reads it thinks it's the worse thing they ever read! So, in case you might be curious, here is where you can buy it and have a peek and maybe tell me what you think? I promise to cover myself in a thick skin. And frankly, how could I not be feeling grateful and blessed right now with my life?