One of the pleasures of the Portuguese Summer is eating melon. But melons are like lottery tickets. You can win the grand prize, a perfectly ripe melon bursting with sweetness, or strike out and get a tasteless specimen. There’s a coloquial expression that reflects this uncertainty. We say “que melão,” which means “what a melon,” when we suffer a minor disappointment.
Melon sellers have some curious idiosyncrasies. They like to boast that their melons come from Almeirim, a region that is famous for its melon but has a small production volume. They also take pride in being able to pick a ripe melon, even though their track record is often spotty.
Restaurant waiters talk about melon with great diplomacy. When they say: “The melon is usually great but I didn’t try it today,” it means that the melon is a dud.
There are restaurants that always serve good melon. No one seems to know how they do it. Perhaps they buy many melons and throw away the bad ones.
According to an old proverb, “por cima de melão, vinho de tostão,” which means “after melon, drink wine that costs a penny.” Since a penny was a lot of money in old times, the proverb recommends drinking good wine after eating melon.
So, here’s our advice. Ask a melon seller to pick a ripe melon from Almeirim for you. If the melon is lousy, just say “que melão” and move on. If the melon is great, celebrate with a great bottle of wine!