Thursday, August 24, 2006

Caldeirada de Enguias

This is a delicacy in Portugal and one that we have every time we visit. It is a a juicy stew filled with potatoes, tomatoes, a lot of garlic and onions and eels. Yes, eels. The first time we had the eel stew, Luisa´s father and stepmother took us to a nice restaurant on the coast, a place known for its Caldeirada de Enguias. While they spoke with the waiter and excitedly placed our order, I went to my happy place, a place that did not have eels on the menu. I grew up in Kansas. Land locked. The only kind of fish I had was Mrs. Paul´s and the primary ingredient in fish sticks in actually textured vegetable protein. My family was all about the meat and potatoes and the cow reigned supreme in my childhood home. This is the context in which my palate developed. Fish and seafood are a gastronomical stretch for me. You try to feed me an eel and I get downright edgy. When the stew arrived at the table, the smell was phenomenal. The onions and garlic drew me in and I was ready to devour the whole pot until I looked into my bowl and something looked back at me. Heads or tails? Hey, with this stew, you get both! As I chanted silently to myself "you can do this, you can do this", I began removing the spines from my eels. I couldn´t poke around forever, I had to eventually take a bite. When I did, I was shocked to find that it tasted absolutely fabulous. I loved it. I ate several bowls of eel stew that day and brought smiles to the faces of my in-laws.

Every time we have visited since then, Luisa´s father and stepmother plan a day for us to have eel stew and I dread it every single time. Intellectually, I know that I will like it but there is just something about the thought of it that has me dragging my heels to the table. We had our Caldeirada de Enguias today and, once again, I enjoyed it. Zeca loved it. All of the vegetables that she normally eats in mass quantities sat untouched as she begged for more and more eels. Miguel ate his eels just fine, though he was more interested in examining the spines up close. I ate two heaping helpings. It did seem that there were a few more little eel faces looking at me than I remembered from previous times but I did my best to ignore them. We ate our stew and toasted with champagne and I´m set for a couple more years.

4 comments:

Kristin said...

As much as I love seafood and trying new things, I do feel slightly nauseated when I imagine eating eels. I would not want to be told what they were. Acutally I would want to eat it blindfolded. Would Luis mind if (when we come to visit the next trip - all 4 of us for 4 weeks - with all of our millions) I brought along a blind fold for myself? What is the Portuguese word for blindfold?

Cathy D. said...

ehhhhh, they have spines you have to remove and they are watching you eat them, the eels that is - you are brave! Glad you are enjoying your trip :)

Luisa said...

It isn't as bad as Vikki makes it sound - it's just like eating any other fish: you have to remove the bones and it is worth the trouble!!!!!!!!!

Colleen said...

You are brave...the eyes are left in? Yikes! I suppose it wouldn't be polite to scream :D Did you have to catch your own? Now that would really be something wouldn't it?