Another year draws to a close and while I'd like to be out tonight celebrating with the rest of Coimbra, unfortunately I'm going to be stuck at home surrounded by piles of used tissues, throat lozenge wrappers, empty mugs of tea, and one very sympathetic cat. There really is no good time to get sick, but I wish I could have pushed it off another week or so.
On Christmas Eve, we were invited to our landlords' family Christmas dinner which gave us the wonderful opportunity to experience another aspect of Portuguese culture. When we arrived, the living room was so full of yummy snacks and treats that there was no room on the tables to even set a drink down!
The photo quality isn't particularly great on these images I stole from my husband's tablet, but it gives an idea of what was available. Meats, seafood, cheeses, olives, sweets, baked goods, nuts and even an amazing mulled wine that we were told was a German tradition were bursting from every square inch of table space.
Then after a couple hours of appetizers and drinks, we all headed upstairs to the main dining room to squeeze around the table with 4 generations of our landlords' family.
Course after course came out, from bacalhau and octopus to fresh fruit and English mincemeat pies. I did my best to try everything (except octopus - I just can't eat something that intelligent), but come dessert I was pretty stuffed. Our English friend sent us home well after midnight with two pieces of his special marzipan-covered liquor-drenched fruitcake that he'd been working on for months and it was fantastic.
On Christmas day, I whipped up a Strawberry Charlotte using this recipe from 1947 in the New York Times. This is a special dessert for me, because my grandmother used to make it back when she was still alive. I lived with her for a few years after graduating college and it was one of my favorite recipes of hers. Sadly, when she passed away she took most of her recipes with her, so I'd been trying to find a similar equivalent for her much-beloved Strawberry Charlotte and this one comes very close.
As the year comes to a close, I think back and marvel about how far I've come. It seems like just yesterday that we finished those seemingly impossible applications for residency and sent them off to the Portuguese consulate. Despite still not speaking the language particularly well and not understanding how to get certain things accomplished, we have a roof over our heads, wonderful new friends, a car to get around town, ridiculously cheap health insurance, and legal residency through the spring. Then we get to begin the process anew! Although this time around it should be a lot easier.
I hope your year has been equally wonderful and if not, well, tomorrow you get to start fresh. I am expecting the coming year to bring many exciting travels (looking forward to Spain in March) with equally excellent food, a better knowledge of the Portuguese language and customs, more business and photographic opportunities, and hopefully good health. Here's to great adventures in food and travel in 2015!