I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions. Many years I ago I used to make them, but I never really thought about them afterwards. I’m just too lazy for them, honestly. Too lazy to think of good ones, and too lazy to keep them, and too lazy to check in and even remember what they were, if I’m being honest. I know after the New Year, most people are feeling the slump of all the unhealthy food and habits of the holidays, but instead of buying a gym membership on January 1*, I hopped my hung-over ass to Portugal, which is definitely the worst place to go if you want to start a diet.
Ok, maybe not the worst. Maybe Hungary and Mexico are worse. But still pretty bad. What makes it so hard to eat healthy in Portugal?
Pasteis de nata
Oh yes, the famous egg custard tarts. I’ve had them at Chinese bakeries before, but the Portuguese ones are really beyond compare. They are so sweet and gooey with a perfectly flaky crust… I’m pretty sure I averaged one per day. Even though they are so sweet that I almost felt sick each time I ate one, I still averaged one per day. Go big or go home.
My favorite bakery was not the “original” one in Belem, but Manteigaria, which has several locations throughout Lisbon and one in Porto.
Inspired by the French Croque Madame, but only more extra. This sandwich is basically a walking can of sodium. It’s a sandwich (ostensibly) with a slice of steak, ham, sausage, and some other sort of pork product, covered in melted cheese and sauce, sometimes with a fried egg on top. It was deliciously bad. Next time I would make sure I had more water with me, because that shit was salty.
Barbecue platter… enough said.
Sande de Pernil
If you ever go to Porto, and you are not a vegetarian, you have to go to Casa Guedes and get the sande de pernil con quesijo. It’s a small sandwich with tender, delicious pulled pork with soft, buttery sheep’s cheese. I had one every day I was in Porto, except Sunday, because they were closed. They’re fries are also excellent (I think they’re fried in pork lard) and you can sample the caldo verde, a traditional vegetable stew (although they stick a piece of sausage in there, sorry again, vegetarians).
Codfish is the national dish of Portugal, despite the fact that they have to import it from Norway or Canada. Rumor has it that there used to be bacalhau off the coast of Portugal, but they fished it to extinction. Now, fish dishes aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but… bacalhau is commonly made into fritters or croquettes or into a cheesy caserole, thereby canceling any potential health benefits. But so delicious!
Wine is heart healthy, right? In moderation? Although let’s be honest, when you can get a glass of wine for 80 cents, you ain’t drinking anything in moderation.
So while there are healthy food options in Portugal, the delicious and unhealthy food is so abundant and pervasive and cheap that really, why even bother? You can always re-start your workouts the second week of January.