I recently learned that in Portuguese, when you’re telling it like it is, you say “Pão pão, queijo queijo.” Bread bread, cheese cheese. It’s often translated as “calling a spade a spade,” but this is a tastier idiom, I think. I’m gonna do some practice sentences with my new saying. Here I go.
“You’ve never had Portuguese food? Pão pão, queijo queijo. Portuguese food is delicious!”
“If you want Portuguese food in Boston, you gotta go to East Cambridge. Pão pão, queijo queijo.”
My post today is the result of some serendipitous happenings. First, I received a gift of Portuguese pumpkin jelly. Never having tasted this before, I stashed it in my pantry to wait for inspiration. It might have lingered there indefinitely, were it not for a Portuguese acquaintance, who had gleefully hauled four jars of pumpkin jelly back to the States from his winter holidays at home. His sheer enthusiasm piqued my interest.
He asked if I knew where to buy such jelly here; I did not. But the seed had taken root in my mind. I was incepted. Boston’s a metropolitan area; there had to be Portuguese food for the eating. And I was going to find it.
Along came the first spring afternoon without too much work, and it was a corker – sunny and breezy. I searched online and found the most promising mentions of Portuguese goods came from places along a short stretch of Cambridge Street. My destination was set!
First up, Fernandes Fish Market (1097 Cambridge Street). As I stepped in the door, the scent of raw and salted fish roiled over me – strong, but intriguing. The narrow shop had open boxes of bacalhau, or salted cod, plus a glass case of fresh fish and Portuguese cheeses. They were also selling a variety of imported canned and packaged groceries, plus baked goods from Fall River, MA (which has a very large Portuguese population and, I’m told, even better Portuguese food than here). I was tempted by the fresh folar de pascoa, Easter sweetbread with an in-shell hardboiled egg tucked in the center. Fernandes is probably your best bet for the one-stop shop.
I stopped by Central Bakery (732 Cambridge St.), a tiny shop heady with the warm smell of bread, and ogled their sweet rolls, white bread, and yeasted corn loaves. I dipped into Albert’s Market, which had a few Portuguese groceries among their standard convenience store fare, and New Deal Fish Market (622 Cambridge St.). a bright, airy space with not only Portuguese but also other international goods alongside sushi-grade fish. I popped my head into Bom Cafe, and read the menus of Portuguese/Brazilian restaurants Sunset Cafe, Portugalia, and Casa Portugal. I gave an honorary nod to my beloved Muqueca, which is Brazilian, but serves delicious seafood stews.
But it was at Courthouse Fish Market (484 Cambridge St.) where I finally committed to my snack. They offered me a clean plastic bag, and I plucked fried fish – whole sardines with their salty crunchy heads, flaky chunks of cod – from a heated case that also carried bacalhau croquettes, calamari, and shrimp.
I came away from my mini-quest with a vastly expanded knowledge of Portuguese food words, and several tins of Gonsalves sardines for myself (because I love sardines – perhaps matter for another post).
And did I find the jelly?
Yes I did.
And did I make some absurd maps to document this experience?
Yes, I did that too.
P.S. Pumpkin jelly is good with walnuts on top of plain yogurt or cottage cheese.