We were dining on the top floor of a hotel with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful harbor. We ordered Bacalhao*, dried salted codfish that is re-hydrated before preparation and served in a sauce best described as a cross between a salsa and gravy. With mixed vegetables as a side dish-delicious!
We have experienced Portuguese cuisine on both sides of the Atlantic. Years later in Brazil, we ordered Bacalhao again and learned more about its origin. The dish dates back to the 15th century and the golden age of Portuguese exploration. Cod was abundant off the coast of Newfoundland, and brave Portuguese sailors, undaunted by distance, caught large amounts of the fish, which they preserved by salting and drying. The dehydrated cod was kept hanging on board, always available to hungry mariners. Bacalhao could be considered one of the world’s earliest fast foods.
After dinner, we moved to the area where there was music and dancing. We had Portuguese wine and were chatting about our upcoming trip to Switzerland, when suddenly, in the midst of conversation, our friends stood up and moved quickly to the dance floor. The new song being played by the orchestra must have held a special meaning for them, or so we young romantics thought.
We watched happily from our table as they whirled around in each other’s arms and we applauded at the song’s close and upon their return to us. We talked a little more and then they got up again. That’s when we realized we were there to dance! There was to be none of this sitting around and talking all night. Our friends must have thought we were a bit odd. All young people like to dance, don’t they? Truth was, as newlyweds, we didn’t have a lot of experience dancing together and we didn’t go out much. After a while, however, our terpsichorean friends began to insist we join them. We didn’t exactly panic, but our hearts beat faster-albeit to the sound of a different drummer, and one who was not
in that orchestra.
Resigned to our fate, we looked at each other, breathed deeply, and walked slowly onto the dance floor, holding hands. We were so self-conscious and afraid we would make fools of ourselves. But we gave it our best try and by evening’s end we were dancing and smiling and having a great time.
1977 was a year of many firsts for us. We were sharing a renaissance for two. We had traveled abroad, met new people, experienced different cultures and different foods-and now, we could add ballroom dancing to the list.
We left Lisbon reluctantly, saddened by thoughts of unrealized experiences and dormant adventures. We vowed to return one day soon to reclaim the past and renew a friendship.