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Anthony Bourdain No Reservations in Portugal: Tony Needs to Meet Cannibals

Drink up...but watch for the pits!
Drink up...but watch for the pits!
The Travel Channel

I've never been to Portugal, but my favorite aunt Mae used to travel there frequently.  Every week I received a little care package in the mail. Sometimes a doll with what seemed like 100 layers of petticoats and skirts, sometimes a small bracelet. Then she "took" a towel from the Lisbon Hilton or something and was "detained" at the airport. Something about not being welcome in the country again made her turn her sights to Orlando after that for winter vacations. 

Tony's been to Portugal before, and also to countries once occupied by the Portuguese (like Mozambique -- which keeps on haunting me). But he's never been to the capital of Lisbon. Pan to our man on a little tram speeding through the narrow streets. Jump to Tony dining on seafood with local chefs Jose Avillez and Henrique Sa Pessoa at O Ramiro. Out come the barnacles, langostine, shrimp, tiny clams, snails, crabs, and lobster. You know the big Under The Sea musical number with Sebastian the Crab?  Well it's like that. Only all the singing fish and mollusks are dead. Watch (and listen) as Tony and company crunch, suck, hammer, and slurp their way through everything that the sea holds dear. It's audible food porn at its finest.

Avillez and Pessoa tell Tony that Portugal is a country that's living off tourists. Sort of like the barnacles that Tony's sucking down.  Ready for dessert?  Make some room because that's not rice pudding or pie -- it is a f**king steak sandwich coming your way.  After dinner, you might want to lapse into a food coma...or listen to some depressing music.  Since Portugal doesn't have Willie Nelson or Patsy Cline, there's Fado. Portugal's answer to the Blues or Country.  Only instead of losing your girl and your hound dog...you've lost your homeland  The music is associated with the Salazar regime.  Portuguese author Antonio Lobo Antunes says that under Salazar's thumb the people of Portugal couldn't talk politics or even kiss in public -- but heroin was really cheap.  Because if you were stoned you didn't have the energy to start a revolution. So Antunes isn't a fan of Fado. But I am. As they sing I'm reminded that Portuguese is one of my favorite languages - all those soft shhh sounds....


Back on a boat for the now-requisite fishing scene. But this is different..because they're fishing for octopus.  Tony

hopes they catch a squid fast because the sea's getting rougher and

he's about to yak up his breakfast.  As they catch a little guy ("I'd

eat him,"quips our omnivorous friend), Tony's suede boots (an unfortunate

choice of footwear for a leaky boat) are soaked through. Plus, he just

sat on a mackerel. Finally an octopus. As they shove a big knife into

his little octobrain, I'm reminded of Paul, the octopus from Germany who used to predict soccer matches. Or the awesome octopus on YouTube that escapes from a fishing boat.

Sol

e Pesca is a combination bait shop and bar. Tony meets the members of

the band Dead Combo for a beer and some tuna jerky. Apparently we'll

learn many times over that trash fish -- mackerel, sardines, squid, octopus -- are very trendy. Tony asks if there are any Brad Pitt-esque hipsters who wear socks on their heads and look like handsome smurfs in Portugal?

Yes, there are a few.  But there are many, many more people in need of

Zoloft, apparently, because we also learn that Portugal isn't really a

"happy place," what with all the unemployment and Fado and all.

There

is one activity that sounds like fun (and is cheap): drinking copious

amounts of ginjinha, a liquor made from Merello cherries. You can get

your ginjinha one of two ways - with a cherry or without... insert

punchline here.  After about a dozen or so of these puppies, Tony heads

over to Cantino do Avillez, where his new chef friend blends classic

cooking with a modern twist. After a meal of green bean tempura, blood

sausage, and pig trotters, Tony's sated. The bill comes out to 13

euros.  Not bad, indeed. Some lethal tiddly winks and it's time for more

food.  This time we're offered codfish tripe on a tiny clothesline,

rabbit-stuffed pastries that look like pig snout, young goat in a tongue

sauce, and horse. Which makes me wonder - why doesn't Tony ever go to a

place with cannibals? Show of hands - who would like to see Tony chomp

down on a little soylent green???

Tony goes to the local market,

where he goes nuts over bacalao (dried salted codfish).  It's the

national dish of Portugal.  By the way -- it's also the

official/unofficial dish of Jamaica (with ackee) and the favorite of

Italian grandmothers (made famous in Rosemary Clooney's Mambo Italiano). 

It's

almost time to leave, but there's always time for one more greasy pork

sandwich and a beer. "Thats f**king good.  Why is it that so often it

all comes down to pork on bread?", Tony muses. Sunsets, young lovers in

an embrace, pork....and a great jailbreak.  It's how every movie should end.

Here's the awesome octopus escape, by the way (too bad he's not eating pork while the sun sets):

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