The fresh, simple, enduring foods of Portugal

Here's what Portuguese cuisine is not: Instagrammable, fancy, molecular, trendy, plated with care, artistic, modern.

Here's what Portuguese cuisine is: simple, fresh, well-salted, traditional, tasty, grows on you, and most importantly of all, prepared with pride. Portugal feeds you foods that have endured thousands of years. Forget all the drama about label reading - go into a Portugese restaurant and the food on your plate came straight from the earth or the seas.

With each trip to Portugal, my partner and I return to his old haunts and try out new places (that are new to us, but really, have been around for ages). I am incredibly lucky to have tasted Portugal through a local, for the most famous food, bacalhau or salted cod fish, is an acquired taste. If that was the first and only thing I'd tried I would cringe, but if you know what to eat, the food creeps up on you. Today I find myself craving Portugese cuisine and a good hearty dish of bacalhau a bras.

Where and what to eat:

Portugalia 

Many outlets but head to the original one. Don't expect fancy service - there's usually a futebol game on the TVs there. 
Order:
Salada de Polvo - chopped octopus in olive oil and herbs, soak up the olive oil that's infused with the taste of fresh herbs with bread after 
Croquette -croquettes can be found at every corner and they're all tasty, but here they serve the best croquettes ever, warm and lightly crispy and soft inside
Ameijoas - light and salty, again use your bread to mop up the juices
Recheio da Sapateira -crab meat minced and served in a special sauce served in a half shell - don't expect the usual texture of crab meat but god this is tasty
Bacalhau a bras -very comfy, homey food. Salted cod mixed with potatoes and egg, the salted cod flavor is more muted and I find this a better dish for first-time bacalhau-eaters
Bacalhau - grilled salted cod! I recommend you share this with a friend if it's the first time you're eating this. Eat with boiled batatas- yum!
Any of their bife or frango steaks in their signature sauce and wobbly egg
Portugalia makes amazing fragrant rice - not the prettiest but so comforting especially for asians like me!

Senhor Peixe

"Mr Fish" this restaurant is just minutes away from the Oriente station and SANA hotel.
Old-man waiters, under-stated decor, catch of the day laid out across ice - so fresh
Order:
Salada de Polvo - if you haven't tried it at Portugalia or loved it and want more
Ameijoas - the clams here are cooked in a really buttery sauce. They are tasty but heavier, depending on their preferences
Green beans - they don't look the tastiest, limp beans boiled until soft, but they're so comforting and go perfectly with salted mains!
Boiled batatas - potatoes boiled and served with olive oil - somehow the way the Portuguese boil their batatas retain a sweetness 
Tiger prawns - grilled with salt only - my personal fave and what I order almost every time there
Squids - grilled with salt only
Fish - ask for recommendations if you're a fish lover! - grilled with salt
(Essentially, any of their fresh catches grilled with salt over charcoal)

Faraleiro

About an hour's drive from Lisbon city, in Cascais
This place is slightly fancier - but still expect old-man waiters
I would order all the same things as at Senhor Peixe and then take a walk around the coast. This place has fantastic views.

I don't think I've ever had a bad meal in Portugal. Once I had salmon that was slightly off and the owner was SO apologetic he did not want to charge for the entire meal! Salmon is not commonly eaten there, and so common in all other parts of the world, so I would go for something else. For breakfast, you need to try a 'papo seco' (pronounced pop-sic) which is a special airy bread with ham and cheese. Pasteis de nata needs no introduction and it is worth it making a day trip to Belem for the most famous one of all. Portuguese food is so simple and so fresh. I am crazy about the sardine paste restaurants serve as starters (slather them onto your bread!). Arroz de polvo is a hearty rice and octopus stew. Perfect for winter time. Caldo Verde - veggie soup that is easy on the tummy.

Portugese cuisine is not exotic or pretty. If you're looking to brag about the food you've eaten Portugal isn't the place. But if you're looking to experience the heart of Portugal, the humble, dependable, fresh, enduring fare is the perfect reflection of the country and its people.


Understanding Hemingway

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” - Hemingway

I never enjoyed Hemingway, never even gave him a chance, but somehow I know it's time to revisit his works.

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My time at the newspapers trained me to write straight to the point. KISS. Keep it short and sweet. It was a skillset I learned.

But still, in the dark of the night, on my own, my mind favoured convoluted sentences. In conversations, with others, my words were a maze, bewildering to the one who was really trying to listen.

I've since realised that someone hides behind words when they don’t know who they are, when they don’t know what they truly want to say, when they cannot even admit all of this to themselves.

Today, I think a clear thought and I write it down. One word after the other. Each word owns the space it takes. 

Write what you know, they say. 

I no longer believe a writer has to experience everything to write about it well. 

Now, I know all a writer needs to do is find their voice. 

When you know what you have to say, everything you write is what you know.

The courage to find and release old trigger points

Recently I saw a physio for lower back pain. I was hoping her release work meant I would be free from pain the very next day. I was happy for her to go as hard as needed, and told her I would deal with the pain of the moment and the ensuing soreness on the same night, please just fix me asap.

She told me it would take a week for my muscles to relax and only if I did some exercises on my own.

I left disappointed, my lower back as stiff as before the session. I was despondent over the days as the pain persisted. Still I continued the prescribed exercised and within a week, as she predicted, the pain was gone.

I am still doing the exercises that target the immediate issue and source cause.

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When we develop a trigger point, the surrounding connective tissue is affected.

Developing a single trigger point and not getting rid of it fast accelerates the formation of the second and third and so on. And then you find your entire leg is a series of trigger points and the pain has spread to your back and hips. 

As anyone who had the courage to go on a foam roller knows, this process is one of pain and maybe you're only motivated to do what's needed for now. You just need to manage the most pressing symptoms of pain. You roll and stretch and the immediate area is released. You can breathe again.

But if the original trigger point still exists, this whole process of tightening up will start again. The secondary knots will return sooner than you think or manifest in other ways.

Because the biggest knots won't dissolve on their own. They will impede you from achieving perfect form. Years of habits, patterns and beliefs have led to their formation and you need consistent, targeted corrective treatment to undo them.

Recovery is a two-step process. First you must stop whatever unwanted pattern, then you must undo the damage it had already caused. For example, if you want to lose weight, first you need to stop consuming new extra calories, then you need to burn off the pre-existing extra calories. You cannot simply say I've stopped over-eating and expect the extra weight to disappear.

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As individuals, we all have a history of emotional trigger points. 

Pain will continue to turn up until we strip away every single thing inside your body that doesn't have a place. 

So get on that foam roller, release what you can today and every day. Undo the debt. Clear the yard. This is your body, your life. 


Delicious green smoothie great for cleansing and recovery

I am not a fan of veggies and LOVE blending (not juicing) my greens!

This is a recipe my partner and I came up with after perusing other green smoothie recipes and testing them out. If you've been downing green smoothies for a while, try this one to up your game.

How it stands out: As folks who are almost addicted to the endorphins of working out and are dangerously close to over training, we find this smoothie helps us recover better. It also cleanses our insides, so don't have this in the morning before a big meeting!

Why this works for busy folks: The only fresh ingredients are the green leaves and fruit. I have the rest of the items stored in the pantry, so making a smoothie doesn't become a huge deal.

Prep time - 5 minutes

Ingredients:
1. Greens of choice, one handful (I use kale)
2. Greens powder, 1/3 to 1 teaspoon (depending on how comfortable you are with the taste)
3. Tumeric, fresh or powdered (I use powder, about 4 shakes)
4. 1-2 pieces of black pepper corn (to activate the tumeric)
5. 1 teaspoon seed of choice (I grind flaxseeds and sometimes include chia seeds)
6. Banana and/or pineapple (about half cup, chopped)
7. Ice cubes (3-4, or as many as your blender can take)
8. Water (sparingly, I used around 50ml or 1/5 of a cup)
9. Honey to taste if needed (use sparingly)

Blend all the ingredients up and there you go! It may look dangerously green (because of the greens powder) but it really tastes pretty good.

Falling in love with content marketing

When I left the journalism field for a content role, the word content unnerved me.

I identified as a reporter. I wrote articles, reported on events and filed stories. Then, 'story' was regarded as old-fashioned and 'content' was in.

What is content? It seemed like an abstract concept or buzzword that marketeers came up with. Argh. Was I a sellout?

Almost five years into the industry, the word 'storytelling' has made a comeback. Now, the title 'storyteller' (these days, it can be anyone who creates content, be it videos, articles, photography) is everywhere.

On the other side, I've fallen in love with creating interesting and valuable content for people just like you or myself, courtesy of brands.

I like that content marketing benefits the audience/consumer/you/me. 

As with any kind of advertising, consumers need to be discerning. But the brand/content creator cannot simply fluff and bluff. To be successful, one has to offer information the audience finds relevant, helpful and entertaining.

In a world of countless options, people want to be loyal to a brand whose principles resonates with them.

Companies that have an ethos should use content to put the word out there. Your target audience/tribe/cult/following/people are waiting to be rallied.