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When in Rome

Portugal is a poor country.

Wages low and some people struggle to survive. The old country folk and farmers in the Alentajo live simply as they have for generations. It's tough for some but they get by ... just.

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Every month we go to a farmers' market in the Alentajo where you can buy everything and anything from chicks, roosters and ducks, to tractors, plants, honey, cheese, strange sausage shaped unmentionable delicacies, and even a sundry collection of pots, pans and a home brew whatsit...

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We love the unpretentious feel of the market as we try to understand the culture of the indigenous locals. A culture inbred by generations driven by poverty and survival. It's almost like living in a bubble. We set aside the stresses of the 21st century for a more simplistic way of life as we people-watch while eating freshly BBQ'd chicken washed down with rustic red wine and moonshine. Not a good combination if you want to remain sober although good if you want to analyse the true meaning of life and observe happiness on a different level.

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We try to blend in and put aside beliefs we held dear in the UK. It's not our country nor is it our place to impose our values on another culture ...

This brings me to the story of a newly arrived couple fresh off the boat and bristling with indignation at the way animals were treated in Portugal. I don't agree with the way women are treated in some countries but it is their religion and culture. Just sayin'. Moving swiftly on.

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We met this couple at the market along with some other friends for lunch. I'm not sure how much alcohol the woman had consumed but when a couple of elderly men joined us at the next table and placed a small box of chicks on their table while they ate their meal she started to shriek.

'Let the chicks go: it's cruel, let them free!'. At this point trying to make herself understood she started clucking and flapping her arms dramatically like a demented chicken.

'For goodness sake, shut up...' I muttered. 'You're making a scene.'

'They have to let them go.'

'They don't have to do anything.' I replied tersely. 'Don't be so stupid. They've bought the chicks to fatten for food or lay eggs. They are not pets. This is real life so get real!' (although patient I'm not always renown for my tact)

Bearing in mind elderly Portuguese do not tend to speak English, they stared first at me and then at the crazy woman in complete bewilderment. I was tempted to tell them she was louco.

As I leveled their gaze, shrugged my shoulders, shook my head and as my eyes rolled heavenwards looking for divine intervention, I garbled an apology in Portuguese.

How can anyone be so quick to judge? She had everything and they nothing. Why live in an old farming community when you are more at home in the city where chicken and eggs are packed on sterile plastic trays and sold in the supermarkets?

Comments

you lead me into a day in the life of PiP..than bam!!...the end had me in hypocritical mode..but still your piece was kind of based on solid observations and actions....all in all a very dynamic write and open...great stuff
 
I sometimes get a similar response when I tell someone it is not un-common for me to shoot something at work and bring it home to eat. As someone who works in the woods I am working in Gods grocery story were it starts out. See food.. shoot foot..eat food. I would love to know where the young couple thought her meal came from?
 
forgot to mention that the pic's really contributed to the words....you seem to have an eye for everyday life in your pic's....
 
Thank you for bringing a slice of Portuguese life to the table PiP. The closest I get to it is when I wash the windows of a café owned by a Portuguese couple in Surrey.
I agree, you can't go around imposing values from one culture onto another. That has happened throughout history and it's never ended well. Cultures have to evolve at their own pace - a bit like the Prime Directive in Star Trek.

I've not eaten meat or fish in over twenty years, but I would never try to be evangelical about it - partly because I know that in a survival situation, I would change that. I do struggle with the idea of animals hurt or killed for non-survival reasons, supposedly 'sport', but I would keep my mouth shut about it in someone else's domain.

I've only visited Portugal once - a wet November in the Algarve. We went into a restaurant and the owners' two dogs were wandering around as we ate It was no problem.

Some of the places reminded me of those half-abandoned towns in the old Western movies; it wouldn't have been too surprising to see Clint Eastwood swagger around the corner. I may visit again one day.
Thanks for posting.
 
I sometimes get a similar response when I tell someone it is not un-common for me to shoot something at work and bring it home to eat. As someone who works in the woods I am working in Gods grocery story were it starts out. See food.. shoot foot..eat food. I would love to know where the young couple thought her meal came from?

It's mostly the same in Portugal. They hunt and eat. Some hunters I believe shoot for sport but not the Portuguese I've spoken to. They also use EVERY part of the animal... and I mean every part. WHich can be quite scary when you are served up Cozinha Portuguesa.

The couple did not have the excuse of being young and insensitive/intolerant the lady was in her 50's. People move here with high ideals and expect everyone to bend to their way of thinking. :(
 
Philistine
I agree, you can't go around imposing values from one culture onto another. That has happened throughout history and it's never ended well. Cultures have to evolve at their own pace - a bit like the Prime Directive in Star Trek.

Precisely :)

I've not eaten meat or fish in over twenty years, but I would never try to be evangelical about it - partly because I know that in a survival situation, I would change that. I do struggle with the idea of animals hurt or killed for non-survival reasons, supposedly 'sport', but I would keep my mouth shut about it in someone else's domain.
I am against animals being killed for sport especially bullfighting
There is mixed feelings against bullfighting in Portugal between the Portuguese. I stay mum because it is amazing how tow warring factions will turn against the outsider. I felt the same when foreigners passed an opinion on foxhunting. Strange I know :)


I've only visited Portugal once - a wet November in the Algarve. We went into a restaurant and the owners' two dogs were wandering around as we ate It was no problem.
Yes, that is common. I was at one cafe where we live and a dog cocked it's leg up my chair narrowly missing my coat and handbag. Landmines (dog's pooh) is a big problem.

Some of the places reminded me of those half-abandoned towns in the old Western movies; it wouldn't have been too surprising to see Clint Eastwood swagger around the corner. I may visit again one day.

Yep, I feel sorry for the tourists who come here in the winter only to find a lot of places closed especially between Christmas and New Year.

Escorial

forgot to mention that the pic's really contributed to the words....you seem to have an eye for everyday life in your pic's....

Pictures sometimes save a 1000 words. How do you describe a palce wehre the clock has not moved on that much for some in a half of century. It's just so different...
 
My husband found an eyeball in his stew... although I understand they even use the testicles.
 
So much better than Murican supermarket culture. In our modernism, we have lost so much culture and simple, honest, good food.
 
@wainscottbl -
So much better than Murican supermarket culture. In our modernism, we have lost so much culture and simple, honest, good food.

When we first moved to Portugal I had to learn to cook every meal from scratch. No prepared sauces, ready-meals, stuffing etc. Yes, they had certain things in the supermarkets but I could not read the instructions. Even when you worked out a recipe you could not guarantee you could buy the ingredients. In time I learned to compromise and adapt recipes. That's when I really learned to cook :)
 
Eyeball in his stew?! How awful. No, you need something good and wholesome, like hotdogs and hamburgers, where everything is ground or pulverized, no offending looks (wink-wink).
 

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