Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saudações de Portugal (Greetings from Portugal)

When my jetsetting friend Bethanne told me she was planning a trip to Portugal, I naturally demanded some photos of the markets.

"What are you looking for?" she asked. "What if they don't have anything that interesting, just the familiar things we have here?"

"I still want to know what they have and how they sell it," I replied. "Maybe they have huge displays of olives, or something that expresses the essence of the Portuguese way of life.

"I love produce markets!" I added enthusiastically, maybe too enthusiastically. I hoped I wasn't spitting as I talked, though even if I had been, it was a phone call and she would have been unscathed.

Whatever her misgivings, Bethanne is a good friend and she took some photos for me. Actually she took more than photos -- she took a hit for me (and the noble cause of produce nosiness), since the supermarket, a Pingo Doce supermarket in Campo Grande, told her to stop photographing.

This photos below show a nice assortment of melons, plums, regular and donut peaches, grapes, etc. There are also some interesting curiosities above the fruit, like the inflatable banana in the above the fresh fruit in the upper part of the photographs.

I wanted to learn more about Pingo Doce, which looks like a large Portuguese supermarket chain. I enjoyed checking out the stores' weekly circular - something your can't do with a roadside fruit stand or even a central market, however wonderful they are in other ways. From what I could see, fruits and vegetables seem to play a supporting role, as they would in a US circular; I was most struck by the centrality of fish (another supporting player in the circulars I'm most familiar with), and wine, which in NYC is mostly sold in wine stores. In NYC, probably the most famous Portuguese food is very tasty Portuguese bread, originating in Newark's Ironbound neighborhood and delivered all over the metropolitan area. Bread gets a lot of love in the motherland too, judging by the respectful amount of real estate devoted to in the circular.

I also enjoyed reading about the fruta e legumes in Portuguese, which is amusingly similar-but-different than Spanish. Carrots, "zanahoria" in Spanish, are "cenoura" in Portuguese. Onions, "cebolla" in Spanish, are "cebola" in Portuguese.  Oranges, "naranja" in Spanish, are "laranja" in Portuguese. And so on. I notice too that the word "importada" (imported) shows up in a few listings, suggesting that most of the stuff isn't imported, and that the names of maçãs (apples) are in English - Gala, Royal Gala, Starking and Golden. The "translate this page" button helped me learn Pingo Doce's philosophy regarding its produce: 
We are committed to flavor and sweetness. Meaning that define levels of minimum sugar content for each variety of fruit we put on sale.Here you will not find fruit that is not sweet. Do not forget: flavor and sweetness.
Bethanne basically agreed with this sentiment. She wrote, "I found the fruit to be sweeter than in the US. Some of the homegrown stuff gets very big - melons, lettuce and oranges, larger-sized that what you see sold in the US."

Thanks, Bethanne, for the photos and reporting. And thanks Pingo Doce for a new, tattoo-worthy creed for all fruits, fruit vendors and fruit customers:
Do not forget: flavor and sweetness.

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