The dismal weather suffered last weekend as I helped build the village bonfire called into question whether the heap of old apple crates and pallets would even catch alight come Bonfire Night.
The dreary, wet conditions seemed extra harsh because I’d just returned from a week in Portugal. Well, after having my ear bent for weeks in the pub about falling milk prices, EU fungicide bans, my neighbour’s sheep orf outbreak, slug infestations and the problems of resistant grass weeds, I was only too glad to jet off and sip Sangria in the sun for a few days.
It was my first trip there, and jolly good fun it proved to be. The hotel, near Cascais, was clean, comfortable, and served the best breakfast I’ve eaten for years. Venturing further afield than the poolside bar I found public transport was cheap and frequent, easily enabling a non-native speaker to find their way to town and beyond to the delights of Lisbon and its environs… plus plenty of bars and restaurants.
Being fond of fish, I happily gorged on locally caught sardines, bass, swordfish, calamari, sea bream, paella and fish stews, but my curiosity got the better of me at the aptly named Café Absurdo. A friendly waiter recommended the speciality of the day: cuttlefish. I was expecting succulent morsels of delicately flavoured seafood, served perhaps with rice and prawns. I wasn’t expecting two whole grilled cuttlefish to be smiling at me on a plate flanked by three boiled potatoes and two carrots. The flesh, if I can call it that, was like a used milking parlour rubber glove encrusted with salt, then soaked in tractor oil. Not to be repeated.
But it got me thinking we could be missing a trick over here. Maybe there’s a way we could create a delicacy out of stir-fried slugs served on a dainty little nest of steamed black-grass?