Lisbon Take 2
'In Portugal, people care about three things: good food, good people and good weather. We may be poor, but we live well.'
This description of Portugal, by a Sintra tuk tuk driver, pretty much sums up the reasons why I love Portugal.
I found myself back in Lisbon only two months after my first visit. My friend, Laura, had asked if I'd join her and our friend, Laura Lee, for a last European hurrah before she moves back to the States. To me, that's not a yes/no question. My response was 'when.'
There were a couple of things I had left uncompleted on my last visit such as visiting the charming town of Sintra and learning how to break a fish at Peixaria Centenaria. I stumbled upon Peixaria Centenaria through their Instagram page and really dig their modern visual interpretation of an old-school fishmonger concept.
In the quaint neighbourhood of Praça das Flores, I met Rui, Tania and Filipe, who oozed passion and fun. They are founders of the fishery, but above all, I can tell from the dynamic and the way they joked at each other that they were friends first and foremost.
On the aqua blue wall of their shop was written the name of the place in a beautifully designed typeface. The places is clean, bright and welcoming...a nice backdrop for arrays of fresh seafood. It became clear to me why their shop has such a cool and creative vibe. Rui told me that he is a 4th generation fishmonger who tried to maintain a traditional way of life which is slowly disappearing since the arrival of big supermarkets. Rui went to school in Berlin and majored in Design Thinking. Filipe is an artist and fishmonger. Tania was born and bread as a fishwife who has worked in the fish market since she was a child. Joana, whom I haven't met, is another partner who manages the shop's social media activities. They are a perfect blend of tradition and modernity.
At Peixaria Centenaria, I learnt how to clean a fish and a squid, a skill that is overlooked by many as everything already comes pre-packaged in this day and age. I, however, want to know and get intimate with my food from bone to skin.
Filipe asked me what I wanted to do with my chosen mackerel. I told him I wanted to filet it. He made a face suggesting that this is not going to turn out well.
I later found out why as filleting requires a skilful technique - especially when you are operating on a delicate fish such as mackerel. One small mackerel died in vain because of me. Filipe schooled me by saying that the fish I dissected look like it was just hit by a bus! 'Be swift and gentle,' he directed.
The second fish looked better after I took his advice to heart. Back home, I practiced the technique with a sea bream which turned out quite well as you can see from the pictures below :)
After the class, I had over 800 g of seafood to take back. Luckily, my favourite hotel Casa das janelas com Vista, where we stayed, has a lovely kitchen. I cooked grilled mackerel with a courgette & bean salad for Laura and Laura Lee for dinner on our last night in Lisbon.
And that's how I concluded my Lisbon take 2...with good people, good food and good weather. That gentleman I encountered in Sintra is right. That's all one really needs.