Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 17, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Meet the Francesinha


“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” Ruth Reichl

I am certainly no Anthony Bourdain. I have done a bit of traveling and have experimented with food from different countries but always return to the tried and true, even if it sometimes bores me to tears.

I love Indian food. Thai is high on my list. So are Chinese and Japanese. Genuine Spanish paella is quickly moving to the top of my all-time favourite dishes.

Many people suggest that from time to time, we conduct a cleanse where we rid our bodies of harmful elements, returning it to a state of purity… before we fail again and fall back into bad eating habits.

I’m having a particularly difficult time with what I call the “Camino Cleanse.” Part of it is psychological and part of it is physiological. My eating habits on my 713K walk across Spain can only be described as somewhere between erratic and abysmal. Eating a warm chocolate croissant every morning for a month washed down with strong black coffee and a glass of the freshest squeezed orange juice imaginable, was not the worst transgression.

A lunch of a baguette with chorizo and cheese, paired with a chilled glass of Estrella beer was the norm.

The evening “communal meal” was never gourmet but then again, that wasn’t the point of these repasts. The nourishment came primarily from the conversations with fellow travelers from every corner of the globe.

And so it was, on my visit to Porto, Portugal at the completion of my Camino, that I casually asked a waiter at one of the 10,000 (an exaggeration but it seemed like it) sidewalk cafes what one might eat that best represented Portugal. He pointed to something on the menu. It was in Portuguese but I am nothing but adventurous and gave him the two thumbs up as I sat with friends from Poland and Brazil, sipping wine on a warm spring evening.

I was about to experience Francesinha for the very first time.

Do you remember the “Double Down” sandwich that KFC was offering up several years ago? You know. It was the one where two deep fried chicken breasts replace the normal bun that one would find in a fast food restaurant. Wedged inside this is bacon, cheese and the Colonel’s special sauce. I did exhaustive research on Wikipedia (!) and was astonished to learn that this delicacy tips the scale at a modest 540 calories. Really? I’m thinking that a Senate investigation might be in order to confirm the veracity of this claim.

The warm evening and the glow of Portuegese port had me feeling quite mellow. That is, until the Francesinha was presented in all of its heart stopping glory. And what, pray tell are the ingredients in this artery clogging masterpiece?

I’ll start with a few that can only be considered benign at best. There’s some cornstarch to thicken the gravy, some tomato paste and a harmless bay leaf. There’s milk, chili flakes and salt. This is where things take a serious turn towards the emergency room. The other main ingredients of a Francesinha are bread (thankfully not two deep fried chicken breasts), roast beef, chorizo, smoked ham, Dutch cheese, beer, and port wine. Sitting atop this eighth wonder of the modern world is a fried egg. The sandwich is served with enough French fries to satisfy the palates of an entire class of kindergarten children.

I must admit that all 1300 calories (not including the fries) were very tasty but the revulsion going on inside my arteries took some of the fun out of tackling this monster. I reckoned that the strain on my heart might be akin to attaching chains to my back and trying to pull a bus 100 meters.

It was soon after consuming every morsel of this meal that I vowed to walk the Camino again. If I hadn’t had to return to Canada, I would have started the next day.

Have a great weekend.



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