Poetic clams

Marcel Proust immortalized the madeleines in his writing. But the French did not change the name of these little cakes to prousteleines or madeleines à la Proust. When Bulhão Pato, a 19th century writer, waxed poetically about a clam dish, the Portuguese named the recipe after him. Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams Bulhão Pato) has become the classic Portuguese clam recipe.

It is easy to prepare: combine olive oil and garlic in a pot; add the clams. Once the clams open, add some chopped coriander and a few squirts of lemon juice.

The recipe is designed to showcase the splendor of the Portuguese clams. You’ll be disappointed if you use this recipe with lesser clams. Order clams Bulhão Pato at a beach-side restaurant and you’ll understand why Bulhão Pato thought they are pure poetry.



In his story “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges describes a library with an infinite number of books. Each book consists of pages with random combinations of characters, spaces, and punctuation. Most books are gibberish. But the library also contains all books that have been written and will be written. The problem is finding the meaningful books amongst all the nonsense.

The story’s protagonist would probably love the bookstore “Ler Devagar” (slow reading). This bookstore is part of the LXfactory, a Lisbon arts center housed in a 19th century textile factory. At the LXfactory you can listen to live music, see the work of contemporary artists, and eat in the restaurant located in the old factory canteen. You’ll have time for all these activities because “Ler Devagar” has a book selection that is both good and finite.

Lxfactory, Rua Rodrigues de Faria, 103, Lisboa, tel. 21 314 33 99, email lxfactory@mainside.pt, click here for website.

Wine varietals

Do any of these names ring a bell?  Touriga nacional, trincadeira, baga, tinta roriz, tinta miúda, ramisco, bastardo? What about alvarinho, arinto, esgana cão, Fernão Pires, sercial? They are all grape varietals unique to Portugal (the first is a list of red grapes and the second a list of white grapes). A few French commodity grapes, such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, currently dominate the international wine market. Portugal has a treasure trove of native grape varietals, developed over centuries of wine production. These varietals have unique flavors and aromas that are waiting to be discovered. So, if you are tired of the same old wines from the same old French grapes, try the wines of Portugal’s growing number of top producers.

Rip Curl in Peniche

Peniche, a sleepy fishing village, used to be an island. But the waves worked tirelessly, carrying mountains of sand to connect Peniche to land. The sand banks they built created beaches that are perfect for surfing: Supertubos, Molho Leste, and Baleal.

Every October, the waves enjoy the fruits of their labor, watching the best surfers in the world compete at the Peniche Rip Curl Pro event. You don’t have to cart any sand to be part of this grand surf celebration. All you have to do is drive to Supertubos on the third week of October.

Traveling in Portugal

It is great fun to read John Murray’s “Handbook for Travellers in Portugal,” published in London in 1864.  He warns that, to explore far-distant valleys, hills, and mountains, the tourist in Portugal “must be prepared for poor accommodation, poor food, and great fatigue.” But, at the same time, “to one who is in pursuit of scenery, more especially to the artist, no other country in Europe can possess such attractions and such freshness of unexplored beauty.”

So much has changed in the last 150 years! You can now travel throughout Portugal in great comfort, eating delicious food, and staying in elegant hotels, pousadas and bed and breakfasts. But, what remains unchanged, is the freshness of the country’s beauty. Take a look!

The light of Lisbon

Almost fifty years ago, when Jackie was young, she traveled from England to Sweden. There, she met a young Portuguese called José Catarino. She liked his handsome looks and calm demeanor.  Jackie returned to England and José to Portugal. And that was supposed to be the end of the story.

But Jackie could not forget José. So, she looked for a job in Lisbon. She found one, as an English tutor to the children of a wealthy Portuguese family. As her flight landed in Lisbon, she marveled at the warm light that made the rooftops look pink. She promised silently that, if she could, she would stay in this enchanted city. It took her some time to find José. But, once she found him, she never let him go.

Jackie Catarino became a painter. Her canvases burst with bold shapes of contrasting colors. And, under the edges, where the shapes meet, lies the shimmering light that she first saw on the rooftops of Lisbon.