Fair Exchange is No Robbery

Here in central Portugal, as in many rural areas of the world, it is customary for neighbours to be, well, neighbourly. Since we moved into this house in September, our neighbours have regulary knocked on our gate with generous gifts; buckets of potatoes, lettuce the size of dinner plates, bread hot from the oven, olive oil, homemade wine and firewater, that sort of thing.

Sometimes I feel I have to offer to pay, even though I know this gesture will be met with a disgusted look and a dismissive wave of the hand. Occasionally, I have something I can offer in return, although this is tricky. This is because we grow less and eat differently, hanging on to our north European diet as much as possible. Not eating meat makes us strange. I make my own natural yoghurt, which I tried sharing but didn’t seem to enthuse them. Home made chutney is appreciated by fellow ex-pats but, in my experience, Portuguese don’t know what to do with it. My style of cake baking is sweeter and lighter than they are used to. A general observation here is that Portuguese are not very adventurous when it comes to food.

On Saturday I was baking sourdough bread when my neighbour called me out with a hot loaf of her bread. So an exchange was possible. It will be interesting to discover if they have any feedback. I doubt they have tasted wholemeal sourdough before – hers’ is traditional white bread. I have to say, bread flour here is not very good quality and you have to seek out a decent wholemeal flour.

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