Embroidery Maker in Madeira

Lace Maker

I’ve been haunted by this picture since I took it a few weeks ago while in Madeira, Portugal. It’s of an embroidery pattern artisan. The boxes behind her extend far beyond what I was able to capture in this photo. We were literally surrounded by them. In each box were countless patterns—most far, far older than me. What makes this image so stirring is that the patterns are made of the thinnest tissue paper imaginable–whispery and ghost-like. I was reminded while standing there of the soft, crepe-thin skin of my grandmother’s hands, the near transparency of them, and how I could see the delicate bones and trace the fretwork of veins beneath. Read more »

The Mistress of Portugal’s Alentejo

Ilda Vinagre

Ilda’s version of the Sword and the Rose

The town of Terrugem, in Portugal’s vast Alentejo region, hangs from highway A-6 like a comma, so small it seldom pauses traffic. One cloudless afternoon several years ago, I was the only driver to slow and turn to enter the village’s surprisingly grand gates. My passenger was then-52-year-old Ilda Vinagre, one of the only female chefs in Portugal to have earned Michelin stars. She had never gotten around to getting her driver’s license, so every day she relied upon the kindness of friends—or, in my case, a stranger—for a lift. I was playing chauffeur because, according to Ilda, the only way I could get to know her was the Portuguese way: to be a guest in her home. And, as I quickly found out, “no” was not an acceptable answer. Read more »

Cod and Shrimp Stew with Quinoa

Cod and Shrimp Stew with Quinoa Recipe

Yes. You saw that recipe title right. Cod and shrimp stew with quinoa. I, the last great holdout when it comes to anything remotely healthy, am trying to embrace good-for-me foods, and from my research, quinoa seems to be a gateway grain (well, actually, it’s a seed). Perhaps this behavior is due to delusions or a bad case of light-headedness brought on by eating way fewer calories, but maybe next week I’ll even try farro, kamut, millet. Who knows? It’s all part of my plan to transform from Fatty Daddy to Phatty Daddy in 2015. Understand that I’m not giving up all those marvelous things I love, namely anything slathered with duck fat. I’m just adding some other things that I’d always thought I hated. I guess I’m not that different from Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials. (All you millennials, check out the video below if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about.) Read more »

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