Fickle about Food

We’re fortunate to have a slew of supermarkets – Aldi, Auchan, Continente, Lidl, MiniPreço, Pingo Doce – conveniently located, within driving distance.

Except (possibly) for Auchan, we unfortunately lack the hipermercados … like El Corte Inglés, Carrefour, and E. LeClerc.

Why should that matter?

Because I’m fickle to the point of fetish about my foods. And not one of our area supermarkets – not even Auchan – carries the variety, brands, and even foods that I crave. Which means that going to the grocery is a day of shopping and playing supermarket sweepstakes.

Granted, I can get most of what I’m looking for at Auchan. Especially my wine. Heck, I’ve even purchased some clothes there! You must be careful about their prices, though. (The same J&J baby powder Auchan sells for €2.49 costs only €1.75 at my neighborhood grocery.) And the super-sized box doesn’t sell the zumo de toronja rosa (grapefruit juice) that I mix with my morning zumo de laranja (orange juice) and daily dose of pills.

I don’t particularly care for Auchan’s orange juice. Even the squeeze-it-yourself machine that, depending on the oranges, puts out too sweet or sour juice.

The OJ honor goes to Lidl, whose cold bottled orange juice (with just a little pulp) is by far my favorite. At Lidl – or Aldi – I can get orange juice I’ll drink, although we prefer the cuts of meat butchered by Lidl. Aldi’s delicious mini quiches in the bakery department aren’t sold anywhere else. But, like Lidl, their stock always changes, and you never can be certain that what you bought there last week will be there next. Aldi’s prices are higher on that good stuff on special that week … of which there’s much more of it at Lidl. Lidl also carries a rather decent cole slaw (ensaladilla americana) and – sometimes – even the better potato salad (ensaladilla de patatas) brands, of which they sell two. We’ve tried them both. One is slathered with gobs of mayonnaise or crème fraiche (we don’t care for that one), while the other isn’t covered with so much sloppy fat and contains small pickles, carrots, and other appropriate veggies.

A creature of habit, I know what I like … so, our weekly shopping trek usually takes us from Auchan > Lidl > Continente.  

Why Continente? Because, to us, the bakery items sold there are better. (At least they taste better to us.) Plus, Continente is the only store in Castelo Branco that sells real, honest-to-goodness grapefruit juice … produced or packaged by Andros. Elsewhere, you can find juices of other flavors – orange, apple, multi-fruit – with the Andros label, but not grapefruit. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we’ll also be able to find Continente’s own brand of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a lip-smacking bargain at just €5.99 per bottle.

Alas, the only place where we can buy anything that comes close to Nathan’s, Hebrew National, Oscar-Meyer, Ball Park, or even Costco hot dogs is in Spain—at Mercadona. That’s why we purchased a “vacation” home (casa de ferias) on the Portuguese border with Spain at Badajoz. A side dish benefit is the number of restaurants in Spain that serve real, mouth-watering, hamburgers. There’s a chain of The Good Burger(s), along with Foster’s Hollywood … kind of a cross between Fuddruckers and Planet Hollywood.

After the car’s boot has stuffed itself on our groceries, it’s time to treat ourselves to lunch out. There are more than enough places around here with different cuisines that we like, although it usually boils down to either pizza or a family-style restaurant serving only a dozen or so Portuguese dishes … and we like at least half of them!

We bemoan the lack of good hamburger joints, frankfurter stands, even breakfast bistros like International House of Pancakes, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Waffle House, and Cracker Barrel. But we’re more than satisfied with the out-of-this-world pastries and breads here in Portugal that make for mighty fine breakfast fixings.

The problem with the restaurants around where we live – a district that occupies one-third of Portugal’s land space! – is that there just are too many or not enough. Feast or famine. If I had the money, I’d open a Tex-Mex, Thai, Japanese (more than sushi), or beefy steak house restaurant that serves London broil, prime ribs, and filet mignon. The thought of a real delicatessen makes my mouth water. Or even a takeout (“take away”) bagel emporium.

With all the Chinese shops on every corner, you’d think there’d be room for several Chinese restaurants here. One, at best, is mediocre. The other advertises “All you can eat” … which is not the same thing as a Chinese buffet! You order one dish at a time and, by the time your server comes to take away your third plate, you’re looked at disdainfully should you dare to order more. In Estremoz, near our second home (in Elvas), are some excellent restaurants where I enjoy eating even Portuguese food. Yummo: porco preto! Yet, tucked out of the way, on the outskirts of town, is a building that looks like it’s a lamp showroom. Instead, it houses the best Chinese buffet I have enjoyed in Portugal—down to General Tso’s chicken and hot-and-spicy whatevers.

Here, there´s rotating Indian food here that takes turns as the favorite. First, it was 7 Especiarias. It closed. Swagat, a combination of Indian and Nepalese—still is our favorite. Along came a family-owned and operated take away place which listed its menu for the following day on Facebook. People marvelled at the taste and heapings of the food carried away, as well as the gentility of the owners. Now, it appears that Taste of India is the flavor de jour, outshining Namaste (Vegeterian).


In terms of pizza parlors, we have more than enough … thank you. But what about Italian restaurants that serve more than pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna loaded with bechemel? Bring me some meatballs, at least!

Yeah, I know; I’ve heard it before: Some of you have no problem finding foods or places to eat. That’s what makes Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra different in cuisine and culinary delights than Castelo Branco.

Here, we have our pastelerías. OMG! Portuguese sweets are second to none.

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine, the “thoughtful magazine for people with Portugal on their minds.” You can read the current issue online and subscribe — FREE! — at Prefer the feel of fingers flicking paper pages? High-quality, low-cost copies of Portugal Living Magazine are available through all Amazon sites.

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Beginning of birth pains …

Normally, I don’t like to talk about politics. Or politics and religion. Or politics, religion, and the “end times.”

Because I don’t consider myself to be a prophet. Nor a learned rabbi. Nor even a madman.

But, as John Pavlovitz would put it, there’s stuff that needs to be said.

The verse in the Bible about “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21) has been sticking to my ribs.

How can it not be, with all the devastation and deceit we’re seeing daily—which some call the “new normal.” All of a sudden, it seems, plagues … the ability to use computers and artificial intelligence to control our lives … the anger of Mother Nature, increasingly hurling floods, draughts, seemingly endless heat waves, landslides, and unquenchable fires … and the barometer of international currency exchanges are conspiring with geopolitics to bring us war, famine, homelessness, helplessness, poverty, disease, prejudice, and hatred.

For me, these are signs of the times. The end times. Which, along with these dreadful gasps of a world spinning and sinning ingloriously away from salvation, ushers in an anti-Christ—the polar opposite and ultimate enemy of the Messiah in every way.

Let me stop here for a moment.

We are a people who have become numb and blind witnesses to what is occurring right before our very eyes. “Oh, people have always thought they were living in the end times,” theologians and people in the pews will nay-say. “We’ve lived through conditions like these before … and we will again,” they say.

But, have we? Really?

Never before have so many apocalyptic arcs aligned simultaneously.

Take the anti-Christ, for example.

I know who he is—and so do you. Not just deductively by the logic of our minds … but in our heart of hearts that truly senses such things and separates spirits from souls.

Even before they were spoken of in the Hebrew Testament’s Daniel all the way through the Greek Testament’s Book of Revelation, scholars agree that the Bible – whether or not you believe it – indicates a tumultuous series of events that will happen upon the anti-Christ’s arrival:

According to Christian tradition, he will reign terribly in the period prior to the Last Judgment.

The Christian conception of Antichrist was derived from Jewish traditions, particularly The Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. Written about 167 BCE, it foretold the coming of a final persecutor who would “speak great words against the most High and wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws” (7:25).

The Antichrist will grow up in obscurity and begin his open “ministry” at age 30, gaining followers by giving signs and performing wonders.

Antichrist’s triumphant reign will last for three and a half years. Like Christ, Antichrist will come to Jerusalem, but, as the Messiah’s antithesis, he will be enthusiastically hailed and revered by the Jews. During his reign he will “rebuild the Temple and sit on the throne of Solomon” in a sacrilegious and hideous perversion of priesthood and just kingship. He will convert the rulers of the earth to his cause and persecute Christians.

Here’s how the Antichrist will unveil his true self as he rises to power:

He will exalt himself.

He will heed his inner voice above others.

He will be hostile toward the true God.

He will exalt human logic above faith.

He will prosper for a season and be loved.

He will think of himself as greater than God.

He will become increasingly lawless.

He will honor military power above faith.

He will love wealth.

He will hoard precious things.

He will become a man of war.

He will wage war on all people of faith.

He will force Israel to ratify a treaty.

He will divide Israel and Jerusalem.

Who do we know that acts that way? Who has been that abusive, acrimonious, adulterous? Who has said he could “commit murder on Fifth Avenue” and get away with it? Who has manipulated nations and leaders? Who has done everything possible to enrich himself from the spoils of others? Who has presided over a “deal” uniting Israel with Arab nations, while separating Jerusalem from the rest of Israel by moving his embassy? Who has withdrawn his nation from peace accords and climate agreements? Who has instigated riots, revolts, and – ultimately – murder? Who has taken and hidden top secret documents for his own objectives? Who has swindled his subjects out of money and means? Who speaks mumbo-jumbo from both sides of his mouth? Who has desecrated God in a publicity stunt, holding a Bible upside down in front of the National Cathedral? Who has leisurely spent more time on the golf course than in the course of his duties? Who has sworn on the Bible and taken an oath to uphold his duties and the laws of his land … but, then, deliberately ridiculed, mocked, and ruled to desecrate them? Who has been powerful enough to develop a cult of worshipful fans and followers that follow him faithfully, the truth be damned? Who has usurped the balance of powers such that he can continue to get away with murder, casting evil over all that believe in him?

You know who I’m talking about.

Will we let this devil without disguise get away with dividing good, well-meaning people who’ve lost control to contain him? Will we wait for a whole bunch of debatable apologetics — a rapture, four horsemen from the east, a Savior appearing in the sky?

Watch for the mark of the beast, my friends.

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