|Fado performers were mainly mature age with excellent voices.|
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As I love fish and fresh salads I ate well in Lisbon. I have learned the hard way to carefully avoid washed vegetables such as lettuce when I travel but I decided to take a chance on my first day in Lisbon when the side salad at lunch looked so good. I waited nervously until the following morning. When the feared traveller's curse failed to appear, I happily included side salads for the rest of my stay in Lisbon. I returned to my usual caution later in Spain and Morocco.
I wasn't sure if sardines were available all year 'round or if there was a season for them in Portugal. When I started visiting restaurants I thought I must have arrived in the middle of the season. In a way I had, as you will see in a moment. Every restaurant or taberna I ate in had them on the menu. These are not the little sardines we see in cans in Australia. These are BIG sardines. They are very similar to, but bigger than, the West Australian Pilchards I use for bait sometimes at home.
Some care is needed to eat them, picking the flesh from the bones as you go, but they are worth the effort. I ate them at three or four meals in my short stay in Lisbon. They were usually cooked over hot coals; always delicious.
This was my next door neighbour who also liked the hot coals cooking method but didn't want to smoke out her apartment. She wasn't the only one who cooked her sardines in the street.
Eventually I discovered I had happened by serendipitous chance to be in the Alfama for the Feast of San Antonio. I usually research the local festivals but I had not heard of this one. No wonder sardines were everywhere. Every vacant space became decorated on the weekend with bunting and filled with trestle tables and barbecues.
As well as sardines there was a wide variety of other dishes at these very inexpensive impromptu restaurants - various sausages, other meats, salads and desserts - and drinks. Super Bock beer was cheaply available as was home-made Sangria. I tried one, but it was far too sweet for my taste and my blood glucose levels. Apart from the occasional beer at lunch I stuck to the excellent Portuguese dry red wines unadulterated by sugars and fruits.
Despite not understanding a word of the lyrics, I found I thoroughly enjoyed taking my time over the evening meal accompanied by Fado singers and musicians. The Fado tradition is very old, first documented in the 1820s and 1830s but with narrative history far older. The songs are mainly laments, a form of blues I am told, but I just liked the music and the singers. This lady was probably the youngest I heard; most were quite mature. Now that I'm 67 I rarely use the word old...
Fado accompaniment was free in the restaurants. I was ready to follow local customs but I never saw any of the performers tipped, which surprised me. I thought about tipping despite that, but did not wish to offend. I hope that failure did not offend as well.
All of the Fado restaurants I chose for the evenings were within 200 metres of my door. I could stumble uphill as late as I liked without worrying about cabs or trams. Yet another reason why I liked my flat in the Rua da Regueira.
Unfortunately my movies of Fado are terrible visually, but I hope the brief sound bites give some idea of the atmosphere. I was still learning how to take movies in low light at the time; well, that's my excuse anyway...listen, don't look.
Down-town restaurants at night.
I often eat soups for lunch. Every restaurant and taberna had an excellent vegetable soup available at lunchtime. On my final day I discovered, only twenty metres away around the corner, a 'lunch-only' restaurant with a limited set menu of cheap tasty lunches. It was just a door on the outside; no signs at all. I discovered it by following my nose. Good finds like that always happen on the last day.
Apart from sardines my other favourite in Lisbon was Dourada, Gilt-head Bream.
A downtown street restaurant and performers.
I cannot recall the full details of this lunch, except that the section beside the salad was delicious. I was never served a meal I did not like in Lisbon.