Sunday, April 7, 2024

Azores 2024 - Dinner for Breakfast, John’s 80th, Dancing with Tio Luis

The rain and wind returned and pelted the bedroom window all night. We are up at 5:30 to get ready for a very special breakfast, at Restaurant Faria in Ribera Grande, but we have to get there by 7am otherwise we won’t get a table. Paulo Fernando, Natercia, Leonor, and their neighbour Francisco meet us at home and we follow them in total darkness to the restaurant (Tio Manuel and Maria opt out so it’s just the three of us).

We’ve been here once 
before and I’ve been looking forward to a return visit ever since. The restaurant is already full and we get one of the last tables. There are about four or five choices for breakfast. I have the beef stew, as do a few of the others. John and Leonor have octopus stew. Paulo Fernando has a dish called doblema, which is a stew of cow stomach and beans. Ana sticks with bread and cheese and a coffee while the rest of us drink red wine, which is served in half litre glasses called quartelos. I’m sure most people have eaten breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, toast) but you haven’t lived until you’ve tried dinner for breakfast at Restaurant Faria. The origin of this meal is very old and legend has it that this proprietor (or probably his father or grandfather or perhaps further back) began serving hearty meals to the fishermen who would be out on the ocean fishing all night and back early in the morning tired and hungry, and not looking just for a light snack. I don’t see any fishermen in here this morning, but there is a group or two of late-night partygoers who are at the end of a big night, while most are just tables of locals enjoying a special Sunday breakfast.


The food is hearty and delicious and served with big baskets of bread to mop up the sauce. Our server comes around with a huge stainless steel jug and tops up everybody’s wine. I stop after a glass and a half so I don’t get too plastered to drive. It’s a great start to the day for John as today is his 80th birthday and he’s enjoying the first morning drinking session of his life. He leans over to me at least three times during the meal and says, “This is the first day of my life I’ve ever drank wine at seven in the morning. Francisco stands up and leads off the Portuguese happy birthday song, with everybody joining in except for me because I don’t know the words, so I just hum along.

Shortly after this, a guy at a table just over from us starts choking and his buddies all drag him out to resuscitate him. Paulo Fernando looks over to the abandoned table and says, “Let’s go grab their food,” and walks over, then just takes a photo of us and returns.

We finish our meals and step outside into the day. Next stop is an espresso at a gas station down the road. Of course it’s not a normal gas station – inside are espresso machines, a display with fresh baked goods, racks of wine, and a nice seating area. We sit there for a very long time visiting. Francisco and his wife Cidalia are a lovely couple and live just down the street from Paulo and Natercia. He asks us to join them for lunch at their house tomorrow which we gladly accept.

After our long coffee we drive back to the house and start getting things ready for the birthday party we’re throwing for John. By 1:30 the house is full of people, food is on the table, drinks are in hand, and it’s loud as hell. We had picked up a huge bag of these little baby chorizos in Feteiras yesterday so we cooked those with the wood fire bbq outside. Ana made a squash and apple casserole and a big salad and the rest we ordered from a local place – grilled chickens, French fries, fish fillets. I think we have about 22 people in all and everybody digs in for a long loud lunch.


The wine and beer melt down inhibitions and I find myself dancing with Tio Luis in the kitchen to a slow Bryan Adams song. Paulo saves us from further embarrassment and puts on “Summer of ‘69” which gets everybody going and a full dance party ensues. It’s a lively bunch today. New people arrive sporadically, including Cidalia and Francisco, and some other friends we hadn’t met before.


“You probably want to go sit by Cidalia so you can speak English, hey Kris?” asks Natercia from across the table. She can barely see me through the fog of Portuguese conversation.


“Oh no,” I say. “I prefer speaking Portuguese. Your dad and I have been staying up late, spending hours speaking Portuguese together.” She looks at me incredulously. She doesn’t believe me. “Go ahead and ask him,” I say, pointing in his direction.

Natercia gets his attention and rattles off the question in machine gun Portuguese. Tio Manuel looks over at me, sees my enthusiastic nodding, then tells her that yes, we sure have been speaking a lot of Portuguese together and I’m getting pretty good (or something like that; I can barely understand any of it, but by the look on Natercia’s face I know Tio Manuel’s backing me up). I might be able to bluff my way through this language after all.


I can tell John’s having a good time. He’s taken each person aside and told them how this was the first time in his life he’d ever drank wine at seven in the morning. He’ll get some good traction out of that story back in Canada too, which is good as he needs some new material. I think he especially likes when the girls bring out a gigantic birthday cake and everybody sings the song then he vigorously blows out the two candles without any accidental release of dental plates or posterior wind.

Sunday Funday starts winding down around 8pm and by 9 we’ve somehow already moved onto the next party – just a block down the street at 
Carmelia and Pedro’s house. The deeply ingrained hospitable nature of the Azoreans means you have to be careful with your jokes. After we walk in, and after a full day of gluttonous eating and drinking, I say in Portuguese, “I’m really hungry. Do you have anything to eat?” Our hosts fly into action and before I can say anything there’re dishes of food and bottles of beer on the table and we’re forced to eat again. Even after I tell her I was joking, and that Portuguese people can’t take a joke, Carmelia packs up a plastic container of soup for me to take home. Portuguese people can’t take a joke…but it usually works out in my favour.

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