Monday, February 28, 2011

Super Mercado

I have been frequenting the fresh food market lately and am lucky enough to have been taken under the wing of the owner/fish-lady after a long conversation about fish, cathedrals, and interesting thoughts on the United States. Upon entering the first time, I was clearly an outsider and everyone watched me from afar, but, at the same time, were very helpful when I nervously approached them. After repeatedly showing up, I have learned that I am somewhat of a mystery to the people who work there. They cannot understand why an American keeps coming 3-4 (ok, maybe five) times a week to buy fresh fish, chicken, bread, fruits, veggies, cheese, butter, almonds and various other food stuffs for making dinner. It doesn't seem to fit their normal experience of what a tourist does. I am getting to be well known there now and am met with smiles and ólas, or if they are feeling extra ambitious, a "good morning" in their best English, as I walk in. On one of my last visits their curiosity piqued when I showed up with Aaron in tow for the first time. As I was buying frango (chicken), the frango guy was trying to teach me the word for leg (I am finding that I am incredibly bad at pronouncing Portuguese words, as when I repeat back what they said, they always shake their head and say no and we go through many more rounds usually with some random bystander joining in before they give up) when the bread guy took this opportunity to come over to help out with the lesson and pepper me with questions. The conversation went kinda like this, bearing in mind that the bread guy left several times to take care of customers at his stall in the the process of our erratic conversation.

Bread guy asking about Aaron: "Is he your brother?"
Me: "No, my son."
Bread guy: "Your cousin?"
Me: "No, my son."
Chicken guy to bread guy to chicken guy to bread guy: A whole bunch of incomprehensible Portuguese.
Bread guy to me: "He says it is impossible. You have the face of a sixteen year old."
Me: "Ah, shucks obrigada (thank you)." Although, part of me is thinking that maybe he is just buttering me up so that I will buy chicken from him and not the other chicken guy.
Bread guy to Aaron: "Do you live here?"
Aaron: "What?"
Bread guy to Aaron: "Are you Portuguese? Are you Portuguese!? Do you speak Portuguese?"

I am thinking that he is thinking, "Aha! I have her figured out."

Aaron: "No."
Bread guy with a sideways look: (here he thinks he really has it!) "Is your dad Portuguese?"
Aaron and me: "No."
Bread guy throwing up his arms: "Then why are you here?!"

At this point I sputter and do a very poor job at trying to explain that Jason has two meetings in Portugal roughly seven weeks apart and we decided that we would just stay the whole time and check out the country. He still does not understand. We move on to other things.

Bread guy: "Do you cook every night?"
Me: "Yes."
Bread guy in disbelief: "That is good. No woman cooks every night any more."
Me: "I just like to cook. I like to eat."
Bread guy matter-of-factly with a solid nod: "Then you know where your food comes from."
Me: "Exactly."

At this point the owner/fish lady comes and grabs my arm, telling me excitedly that she used Google translate yesterday to learn the names of the fishes in English and leads me away to the fish room to show me, gabbing the whole time. She walks me through the list and shows me as many of the fish that she can. Shrimps. Black swordfish. Hake. Grouper. Sea bass. I can't believe that she took the time to translate all of these fish for the crazy American. I was touched.

On the next visit, the bread guy sees me sans Aaron. 
Bread guy: "Where is your son?"
Me: "He is at home with my husband."
Bread guy: "You live here?!"
Me: "No. He is at the apartment where we are staying."
Bread guy, still baffled: "Why Sintra? Why not Caiscais or Estoril (two other towns that are much more glamorous where we could go to the spa and gamble and shop)?"
Me: "Because it is beautiful here and there are castles and palaces and we like hiking....walking."
Bread guy, head cocked, lower lip out, nodding thoughtfully: "I guess we do have a lot of walking."


  1. Kirsten ... thanks again for taking the time to put up these wonderful commentaries and pictures. You are a treasure.