#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 28

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 28

Day 28

Morangos com chantili (strawberries with chantilly cream, fraises avec de la chantilly), I repeat again and again as the computer prompts me.

Today I am expanding my food vocabulary in Portuguese.

Morangos com chantili. My mouth is salivating at the thought of it. I remember bright sunny days spent harvesting in my grand mother’s garden. First there were mirabelles (cherry plums, tentatively mirabelles in Portuguese too. My searches are so far inconclusive), then les fraises, and last les groseilles (red currants, as groselhas). We picked them carefully, eating more than we put aside in our baskets.

Back in the house, my grand father made tartes (tarts, tartes) with les mirabelles. Full of sugar, they were the only way I would eat this fruit. The strawberries didn’t require any more than a wash and a long squeeze of la chantilly (chantilly cream, a chantili) bottle. If the harvest was good, we’d retire to the jam (confiture, doce) making room and delight on the sweet smell emanating from copper pots.

Salsa. The word looks odd, its meaning entangled in various definitions. I know to be careful with this one. It’s not salsa like the sauce (sauce, molho). It’s parsley, persil. I have long disliked this herb. My grand mother use to tie it around my neck during long car journeys. Presumably it warded off car sickness but I remember the smell around my neck, the fragrance forever associated with long journeys and upset stomachs. Even today, I can’t quite shake off the memory when I see parsley on a plate.

Ervilhas. I look at the word in despair. I have just learned it and yet I cannot remember what it means. ‘Ervilha, ervilha…’ I mumble under my breath. It is of no use, I have to look up my notes. Peas! Green peas, petit pois. I cook them for lunch, the word now forever associated to this day.

Feijão. The word is difficult to say, my mouth and tongue twisting in unfamiliar shapes. There are many letters in it to pronounce. Not like bean that is always a delight on the tongue, or les haricots (the word not quite fitting all feijões) that is a constant fight. My brother was allowed to make the ’s’ of ‘les’ marry with the ‘a’ of haricots while I had to suffer the constant correction. In my days the ‘h’ was mighty and stopped the liaison from happening. I still cannot bear to hear ‘les zharicots’ without cringing.

Then there are the words already known. Laranjas (oranges, oranges), their smell and taste accompanying every memory of Portugal I have. From the bitter face twitching unripped oranges, to the squishy, sweet, and sticky ones. They have taught me what an orange should taste like. I barely eat them in the UK anymore.

Arroz, (rice, riz) with its stressed ‘r’ delighting me. O mel (the honey, le miel) that I learned while pedalling in Portugal and eating far too much of o mel. Pão (bread, pain) and the little bird I gave this name to in Lisbon. He would hop on the breakfast table and bracingly take pieces of pão from my hands, coming over and over again until he had enough to feed an army of birds. Cerveja (beer, bière), a word I can no longer say in Spanish no matter how hard I try. It always comes out of my mouth with a Portuguese pronunciation. Chá (tea, thé) that I drink multiple cups of every day. I didn’t know how to say it the first time I visited Portugal. I asked for some hoping the word would be the same as the ones in the languages I know. It wasn’t. O leite (the milk, le lait) and that bottle of licor de leite (milk liquor, liqueur de lait) I shared with fellow travellers on the road, the following day spent nursing a hangover in my tent. And of course, sardinha (sardine, sardine) and cabalhau (cod, morue) because how could you mention Portugal without those.

The list goes on. Words known words learned, I go over my notes again and again, each food associated with a taste, a feeling, and a moment in time. And for a while I am gone, travelling through the past and memories yet to come.

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