For as long as I can remember, the expression ‘petisco’ has always figured prominently in my gastronomic upbringing. To the Portuguese, it is the perfect expression of feeling peckish for something small without ruining your appetite. In my mind, I often wonder if having a smallish snack or ‘petisco’ was the only way to justify having to short gap your hunger until dinner time which inevitably was and still is always a big affair. But coming from a Portuguese household and having being brought up to appreciate a good petisco, I also discovered very quickly that there is no greater justification for a love of food than to come up with a concept that enables ‘snacking’ between mealtimes. The Portuguese like any other Southern European country love their food. Infact, this would be an understatement, they LOVE it. So the very idea that you can have a small tidbit delicacy before your dinner is universally accepted and upheld on a daily basis.
For a small person, I can definitely hold my own at the dining table, however, for me, you can’t go past a good petisco. It is the identical twin of the Spanish tapas with similar ingredients and dishes making a bold and colourful appearance: Fresh prawns and all types of seafood (preferably local to the region), grilled chorizo cooked with brandy on a Chorizo Grill or Assa Chorizo, butter cheese (manteigado think Spanish manchego), whitebait, not to mention my absolute favourites cod cakes and prawn rissoles. All of these delicious tidbits have to be sampled with a good glass of wine or a refreshingly cold beer.
Then the Portuguese step it up a culinary notch (depending upon your point of view) with cockles and other locally caught seafood or snails with oregano. The latter in particular conjures fond memories of driving through Portugal watching locals across the country picking snails by the roadside. My late grandmother was a champion Snail eater and the presence of dry oregano always gave me a heads up on when to dodge the evening’s proposed fare.
Lunchtimes in Portugal are a serious and fast paced business. You snack standing up, with caldo verde (kale soup) being a big favourite for those in a hurry. For the more robust individuals a shot of cherry liqueur is even regarded as a legitimate Petisco stop. For more on this check out Ginginha
For all of it’s intricacies, the real reason I love Petisco is because it feels decadent in a way that only daily snacking can in Southern Europe. Our ‘why not’ culture that embraces life, food, appetite and everything else in between allows us to be naughty every day without the guilt. Eating petisco every day is my personal motto. Big praise to the small snack!
For more information on Petisco, check out these resources and recipes:
Great Petisco boards to check out on Pinterest
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