I stand in the aisle looking around,
uninspired. How can everything change so
much in 24 hours? Where are the friendly Portuguese? The accommodating wait
staff? And I couldn’t help but notice that when I got up this morning no one
rushed in to make my bed.
I step aside as an impatient
shopper rushes past with a shopping cart full of cans and plastic packages. The
sight makes me marginally more depressed. If I were shopping in Portugal right
now, I wonder, what would I be looking for?
I turn around and head for the
produce section. I walk slowly, thinking of all the wonderful meals we had when
our group was in Sintra. I spy some cherry tomatoes. I hold them close to my
nose and I can smell the sunshine they ripened in. A fragrant bunch of Basil
follows them into my cart as the image of the caprese salad we had on our last
night in Sintra forms in my mind.
I need to pick out some cheese – no meal in Portugal is complete without cheese. There are all kinds but I’m looking for the softest Bocconcini for my salad. I find a container of the small balls of cheese and put it almost reverently into my cart. I think of the ripe sheep’s milk cheese we had in Estoril while we sat on the patio overlooking the ocean drinking Sangria and laughing like the happy tourists we were. I look, but no luck. There is no sheep’s cheese of any sort that I can find. I sigh and grab a chunk of smoked gouda. It isn’t what I was looking for but sometimes you have to go with what you can find.
There is an array of different types of olives beside the cheese, and I look them over carefully: Dark kalamata olives, green olives with pimento, spicy olives, garlic olives, all looking very enticing. The small garlic olives are very similar to those that started so many of our meals in Portugal. I pop a container into my cart and then turn towards the bakery section. I will not find the flakey Portuguese pastries I have fallen in love with I am sure, but I could find a crusty roll, and maybe a fine-grained bread to dip in olive oil and salt, and savour with tiny bites. The rolls are warm when I get to the bakery and they smell divine. I select three and take a small dense loaf of rye bread for good measure. It would not compare to the Paõ de milho, a dense cornbread, that soaks up the olive oil and becomes a poem in your mouth but I’m sure it will be ok. That reminds me: I need a good olive oil.
I search thoughtfully through the selection of oils (how could there be so many different types of Olive oil I wonder?) and eventually find a small dark green bottle of oil that might not really be that different from the others? But it looks exotic enough for my meal. And is there any gray sea salt? Allyson had recounted her fruitless search for gray sea salt in Toronto – the story prompted by her excitement when she saw the cute little salt cellars on our table at INcomum where we ate on our last night in Sintra. But after an extensive search involving a clerk who clearly thought I was making things up, we could not find any either. Ok, pink sea salt would have to do. Into the cart it went.
The fish counter was my next stop. It lacked the excitement we had at Azenhas Do Mar when the waiter brought the freshly caught fish to us on a platter so we could pick the exact one we wanted to eat. They didn’t have sea bream, or ocean bass or octopus, so I settled for a nice chunk of Halibut.
I zoomed back to the produce section,
realizing that I needed a couple of zucchinis and an onion to make the vegetable
accompaniment that would be required to round out my meal.
I also picked out a handful of tiny potatoes and a red pepper to roast with the pork I know I have in my freezer. I’m sure I can find a recipe to help me roast it like we had at supper on… which night was that? I think on Wednesday? When we walked to the restaurant past the square. I can’t remember the name, but it was just past the Café Paris where I had my Shirley Valentine moment. Christina and I had meandered back to the hotel after our meal. We window shopped in the now closed stores, and she shared her travel stories. She has been everywhere and my god she is brave! I smile at the memory.
I look into my basket and see that the memories of my trip have brought Portugal home with me. And that’s when I realize that this is why I travel. This is what makes these adventures worth having – not just the moment that I visit the amazing places around the globe, but that I bring it back home with me.
I realize there’s one thing
missing. I turn my cart around one more time, pick up a carton of full fat
milk, a little whipping cream for good measure, then head down the baking aisle. I slow and carefully read the ingredients on
each container until I find the absolutely correct one. With 65% cocoa, Frys is
the best cocoa powder I can find in this store.
I slip the container into my cart and let it snuggle against the milk
and cream. My meal will only taste of Portugal when I can finish it with a cup
of the darkest and sweetest hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
Tchau Sobeys! Today you aren’t
just a grocery store: today you’re a grocery story.