Category Archives: Portuguese Culture

Portuguese Heritage – Fado

The theme for this week’s WordPress photo challenge is Heritage. Thinking of the words ‘heritage’ and ‘Portugal’ in the same sentence the first thing that comes to mind is Fado.

We were fortunate to see the highly acclaimed Fado singer Mariza in concert in 2010. It is one of those treasured memories that will always stay with me.

Mariza in concert - Lagos 2010

Mariza in concert – Lagos 2010

Dating back to the early 1900’s Fado (destiny/fate) is traditional Portuguese music with its roots in Lisbon. From my experience of listening to Fado I can only describe it as the voice of a soul in torment. The fadista (singer) usually sings about the harsh realities of daily life and is extremely melancholy. Expression also plays an important part of the performance with anguish not only portrayed in the voice but also in the facial expressions.

Mariza in concert 2010

Mariza in concert 2010

The fadista can be male or female and is often accompanied by guitars including a Portuguese guitar

The Challenge

This week, share a photo of something that says “heritage” to you. It can be from your own family or culture — a library, a work of public art, a place of worship, an object passed down to you from previous generations. Or, like me, you can choose to focus on a tradition to which you don’t belong, but to which you’ve been exposed whether through travel, moving, or the people in your life.

Related posts: Fado is like Marmite (or should that be Veggiemite?)
Useful websites:


Statue Infante D. Henrique and the Mercado de Escravos – (Slave Market) in Lagos

Infante D. Henrique

Infante D. Henrique

The statue of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator), sits pride of place in the Praça do Infante Dom Henrique within a few metres of the “Slave Market”. Born March 4th, 1394 Henry was an important figure in the Portuguese Age of Discovery and sponsored exploration voyages in search of new trade routes down the coast of Africa. In 1434 Gil Eanes set sail from the Port of Lagos in the Western Algarve. Although his voyage was initially a voyage of exploration, the ships returned with slaves, spices,  gold dust, kola nuts, ivory, chilli pepper and birds.

The “Slave Market” (Mercado de Escravos), and the first in Europe was built in 1444,  now opens its doors as a Museum.

Mercado de Escravos – (Slave Market)

Slave Market Museum, Lagos

Slave Market Museum, Lagos – Portugal

I’ve passed this innocuous looking building on many occasions without a second glance. But it’s only now that I’ve researched its dark history (no pun intended) I discover it was the first gateway to the slave trade in Europe. Incredible!

Other great explorers of this era include Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and James Cook.

References: Wiki – Lagos, Portugal and Infante D. Henrique.

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Boa Páscoa – Happy Easter!

Folar da Páscoa - Traditional Portuguese Easter Bread

Folar da Páscoa – Traditional Portuguese Easter Bread

I don’t have any pictures of Easter Bunnies or Easter Eggs, so hope a picture of Folar da Páscoa will suffice.

I’d planned to drag Mr. Piglet along to a Folar da Páscoa festival today. However, as it’s being held outside and the weather is SO awful I will have to wait until next year! Mr. Piglet breathed a BIG sigh of relief! First time I’ve heard him cheer because it’s raining.

Related posts
Folar da Páscoa

What is a Cataplana?



Since moving to Portugal one of my favorite meals, when we eat out, is a fish stew (Caldeirada) but the type which is cooked and served in a copper dish called a Cataplana. As you can see from my photograph the dish has two hinged clam-like shells which are clamped tightly together during cooking. Researching the origin of the dish Wikipedia states the Cataplana was invented by Armando Luz (1927-2002), however other sources such as and informs us the Cataplana was first introduced to the Algarve by the Moors in the 8th Century, during their occupation. Help I’m confused!

Usually, when I see Cataplana de Peixe on the menu it’s for two people so I was delighted to discover the Don Sebastian restaurant in Lagos served single portions! Mr. Piglet is not keen on fish stew and even less so since eating Caldeirada which contained fish lips; the type of fish that looks like its lips have undergone a Botox operation. It made us laugh because the lips were not attached to anything and just yawned at him when he spooned some of the stew onto his plate. Then when he discovered some white hard round things which our friend informed him were the fishes eye balls, Mr. Piglet nearly evaporated on the spot!



Cataplana recipes
Trawling through recipes on Google and YouTube ingredients can include anything from pork and clams to fish and seafood etc.
Recipe and Video for Cataplana in English from


Everyday Life in the Algarve

But not as we know it!

Perhaps looking at this photograph you would be forgiven for thinking the shot was taken in the heart of the country, and not in a small town in the Western Algarve.

Everyday life in the Algarve, but not as we know it!

Everyday life in the Algarve, but not as we know it!

When I captured this moment it was if I’d  stepped back in time to another era and a totally different way of life in Portugal.  I wonder how he feels about the changes to his everyday life.  Are they better or worse?

Burro and cart in Portugal

Burro and cart in Portugal

What changes he must have witnessed after the Carnation Revolution in 1974, yet his life, to an outsider, seems unchanged. Did he resist change or is he trapped by poverty?

A new way of life merges seamlessly with the old

A new way of life merges seamlessly with the old

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge  this week’s theme is “Everyday Life”

Is Bullfighting “Wrong”?

The theme for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is “Wrong”.

I often reflect on the heated and ongoing debate about the traditional spectacle of bullfighting which is popular in several countries including Spain and Portugal. While some people refer to bullfighting as an “Art” others refer to it as “Sport”. Either way should people inflict pain on an animal in the name of sport or art?

Is it wrong?

As we drove through Spain we saw the iconic silhouettes of the Osborne Bull erected in prominent locations such as on hillsides or on the vast desolate plains. I did not appreciate the size of the bulls until, inspecting this photo more closely, I spotted the people below!

The iconic silhouette of the Osborne Bull in Spain

The iconic silhouette of the Osborne Bull in Spain

Originally created as part of an advertising campaign to promote Veterano brandy the iconic bull has over time been adopted as the unofficial emblem of Spain and used on many touristy items. I wrongly assumed these bulls symbolised bullfighting, but fortunately they do not (thank you Mr. Google)!

What a magnificent animal so why “bullfighting”?

Please share your opinion either “for” or “against” in the comments section below. I would be grateful if you would also take a moment to vote in the poll – it will be interesting to measure my readers view.

Bullfighting in Portugal - Image from Wikipedia

Bullfighting in Portugal – Image from Wikipedia

Want to know more about bullfighting?
Check out Bullfighting on Wikipedia

Jogo da Malha – Jogos Tradicionais

A few weeks ago we returned to Praia do Vale dos Homens to show friends the pair of white storks we’d discovered nesting on an outcrop of rocks. As we drove through the back streets of the sleepy village of Rogil we noticed a group of elderly men gathered on some waste ground. 

What are they doing we wondered...

What are they doing we wondered...

Some were pacing up and down, and then bending down as if to examine something, while others sat on an assortment of old chairs and upturned boxes watching intently.

Curiosity got the better of us so we stopped the car to observe proceedings from a discreet distance. As you can see from the photograph the men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

The men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

The men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

Some of the men were holding two square metal discs with rounded corners which they then slid/threw with more force than precision (to my untrained eye) along the strip of concrete to dislodge a wooden pin situated at the far end.

I was fascinated, and even, almost, but not quite, plucked up courage to ask one of the spectators the name of the game they were watching. This is where I become so cross and frustrated with myself becuase I lack  courage confidence in using my limited Portuguese.  So I sat in the car taking photographs instead.  Even my friend felt frustrated by my lack of courage, took my camera and positioned herself to take a unobscructed photograph of the concrete strip.

The moment I returned home I plagued Mr Google for answers. Nothing!
Well what did I expect using such a vague search term as “Portuguese men playing a game with metal discs”. I then emailed a couple of Portuguese subscribers who comment on my blog. Result – they thought the name of the game was Jogo da Malha.

Jogo da Malha, or Jogo de Chinquilho as it is called in some areas of Portugal, is a traditional Portuguese game reported to date back to the 15th Century.

Jogo da Malha - Meco and Mesh

Jogo da Malha - Pino (Meco) and Mesh

The game is played on a hard surface, and as you can see from the photographs of the game we observed, there is a long concrete strip sprinkled with what looks like sand or fine grit. A wooden pin called a meco is set up at the far end of the track and the players slide/throw a metal disc (mesh) to knock down the pino (meco). Please note the game does vary in that I have noticed in most photographs on other websites there is not a concrete strip, just hard ground. The discs may also be thrown and in some cases even stones are used.

I struggled with translation issues to find information I could use concerning the rules as they seemed to vary. I smiled because when I used Google translate for some text I was presented with

Player or team that knock down the stick a time will be able to still obtain that to another one sweater thrown stay more near to the stick that the of the adversary, being able to in that case earn 3 points; THE Player that knock down the stick twice will obtain 4 points; case the sweaters that They knocked down the stick they stay
more near to this that the of the adversary, will earn 6 points. The stick after knocked down is put once again in the same small farm where was, small farm that that previously should be designated.

However, I eventually struck lucky and found a website advertising a Jogo da Malha tournament. Unfortunately since I last visited the site a few weeks ago, my anti-virus software is now alerting me the site poses a security threat and is unsafe.

Rules of the game
(as far as I can tell)

There appears to be so many variations to the rules across the country that I’ve taken an overview from a Portuguese organisation who have organised a Jogo de Malha tournament.

* Each team consists of two players and each game consists of two teams. The players have two meshes each.
* The meshes are 9.5cm with a weight of approximately 1.3kg. The mecos are approximately 20cm high and 5cm diameter
* The minimum distance between the pinos (mecos) is 12 mtrs with a maximum of 16 mtrs
* A perpendicular line one mtere in front of the pini (meco) will mark the zone of launching the meshes
* Each player has two meshes which they throw alternately to topple the meco and leave as close as possible.
* When the meco is toppled they gain 4 points for their team

This part became lost in translation:
“after the four meshes plays, they get closer to the pino (meco) sum 2 points, and a team scoring 4 points if your two fabrics are the closest of meco, being the partner of the player whose fabric won the points who will first and third releases of meshes, and so on”

* The first team to achieve 30 points wins the game.
* Each match consists of a maximum of five games.

A friend in Northern Portugal advised

In some areas this is called Jogo de Malha
In my area it’s called Jogo de Chinquilho & has different rules
Same disc are used back & forwards between both players

Need a fairly hard surface – 2 pins at a distance from 12-18 meters
1 Player each end with a round metal disc
Whoever plays 1st has 2 disc’s & they throw to knock over pin.
Pin down 2 points – nearest to Pin 1 point
If ONE player get’s both discs very close to the Pin without knocking it over they count as 2 points each
Game finished when 1 player reaches 31 points
Rules seem rather complicated ?

I try, but to be honest sometimes researching a topic using only Portuguse websites is like trying to do a doublesided sky jigsaw puzzle. (I only have the edges and corners for clues)

If anyone has any further information about this game I would love to know more.

A Present for Piglet!

I was given a wonderful surprise present this afternoon – my own Piggy Assador de Barro!

Pig Assador de Barro

Pig Assador de Barro

It’s really cute. Thankyou so much!

What unexpected presents have you received recently?

Related post: An Assador de Barro is NOT a Portuguese Toast Rack

An Assador de Barro is NOT a Portuguese Toast Rack

BBQ Chouriço Sausage on a Assador de Barro

BBQ Chouriço Sausage on a Assador de Barro

For many years I believed the clay dishes sold by the Artesanos in Portugal (Pottery shops) were toast racks. Yes, toast racks! I pondered over the design of these strange dishes, as you would, and decided Portuguese “toast racks” were extremely impractical as they would not hold many slices of toast.

Well what else could they be?

Several years later, my friend whose husband is Portuguese, laughed when I shared my thoughts. She then looked at me in sheer disbelief when she realized I was actually serious…

Like an adult to a child she kindly explained – they are a special clay dish to BBQ Chouriço Sausage.


All you need are some Chouriço Sausages (Portuguese) – (Chorizo Sausage is a Spanish sausage) – another lesson learned and some Aguardente – Portuguese grape brandy or Bagaço which is the homebrewed Aguardente.

How to use the Assador de Barro

Assador de Barro

Assador de Barro

* Pour some Aguardente or Bagaço into the bottom of the Assador de Barro
* Prick the Chouriço Sausage with a fork and place on dish.
* Set light to the Aguardente and cook chouriço sausage for a couple of minutes each side.

Apparently, Aguardente is used instead of Medronho because Medronho affects the taste of the sausage.
You can buy Chouriço Sausage from Supermarkets, local markets, butchers etc

Chouriço Sausage

Chouriço Sausage

To be honest, I won’t be rushing out to buy an Assador de Barro as I am not keen on the taste of the Chouriço Sausage which seems to be a common ingredient in several traditional Portuguese recipes.

Armed with the name of the clay dish I tried to research its history on the internet but nada – the most useful or unuseful information was the translation which was “Roaster from Clay” and “Meat grills of mud”.

I am curious to learn more about the history of the Assador de Barro – how they came to be invented, by whom and why.

What is the “Galo de Barcelos”?

I’ve always been intrigued by the brightly coloured cockerels (roosters) that are for sale in all the souvenir shops here in Portugal. Why are they so popular? Curiosity finally got the better of me so I decided to do a little research.

Galo de Barcelos

Galo de Barcelos

The brightly coloured rooster is called the Galo de Barcelos and is one of the national symbols of Portugal. Apparently the Galo de Barcelos symbolises honesty, integrity, trust and honour; everyone should have one in their house to bring them luck. Artesanatos (pottery shops) and tourist shops are filled with the brightly coloured Galo de Barcelos rooster souvenirs such as pottery models, printed tea towels, table cloths and key rings to name a few. So when you visit Portugal you can’t return home without one!

I was discussing this very point with my French son-in-law and he informed me France also used the cockerel “Le Coq Gaulois or the Gallic Rooster” as one of their national symbols. I was not sure whether he was joking when he said

“It was because it was the only bird that could stand with both feet in the “pooh” and still crow about it”

Hmmm I wonder?

Sorry I digress…So how did the Galo de Barcelos become the symbol of Portugal?

The legend of the Galo de Barcelos has been passed from generation to generation and while there the stories differ, the ending is always the same.

These two are my favourite:

A pilgrim from the Spanish Province of Galiza was passing through the town of Barcelos when a crime was committed. The authorities, not having any other suspects arrested the pilgrim and sentenced him to be hanged. The pilgrim asked to see the magistrate who had condemned him in order to plead his innocence. An audience was granted and the pilgrim was taken to the magistrate’s house while he was having a banquet. However, despite the pilgrim’s desperate please the magistrate remained unconvinced as to his innocence.In a desperate attempt the pilgrim pleaded again and then pointed to a magnificent roasted rooster on a silver platter waiting to be served to the guests.

“Lord God” said the pilgrim “as Peter, your servant denied you at the cock’s crow, would that you show my innocence as your humble servant by this cock’s crow?”

Much to everyone’s amazement the cock came to life and started to crow and the pilgrim was immediately released.

An alternative ending….

In desperation the pilgrim pointed to the roasted rooster on the banquet table and said

“As surely as I am innocent will that rooster crow if l am hanged!”

The guests and the magistrates roared with laughter at the pilgrims claims and he was led away to be hanged. The guests, however, lost their appetite for the rooster and it remained untouched on the platter. The hangman applied the noose and as the pilgrim was being hanged the rooster stood up and began to crow. Realising he had made a grave error the magistrate rushed from the table to stop the hanging. Luckily the noose was faulty and the pilgrim survived and was released.

Many years later the pilgrim returned to the town of Barcelos and erected a monument to the Virgin and St James (San Tiago).

The great thing about legends passed from generation to generation is the stories do vary. I thought it was an interesting idea not only to share the story, but also share the alternative endings – which do your prefer?

Please share the legend behind your country’s national symbol

Other Portuguese legends: How to make Soup from a Stone