Pao com Choriço

If you asked my boyfriend what his last meal would be, this would be a top contender. The first time we tried this humble meat and bread loaf we had just finished surfing together for the second time.

Imagine waking up at 7am on a hot August day in Lisbon, eating a croissant with “nata” (rich cream), maybe a cappuccino or fresh orange juice and then jumping into a van to drive for 45 minutes to the surf spot. It was a Sunday so traffic was less, but the heat was in full force. We had this little van, and picked up some young Dutch or German couples.

Once we got to Sintra, a little coastal town, similar to Malibu in its vibes, we got suited up in our wetsuits. We had to carry the boards two by two because they were the big, awkward ones for first time learners. We had a quick lesson and off into the freezing cold water we went. The waves were calm but perfect for beginners, so much so that our instructor, Nuno, said he was jealous of us, because he wanted to be surfing too, instead of teaching us, in a polite way. Some of us stood up for 5 to 10 seconds which is pretty impressive. After the surf, we had to shower and walk back up the hill with the boards in heat that was 110 F or more. Nuno’s face was covered in white from all the sunscreen, all the time because he knew how bad the ozone layer was blown out in Portugal. We headed back to the van and we were starved. After spending time in the ocean I always have a craving for salty food, so this lunch was the best solution for that.

Nuno, a Sintra local, took us to a place that he grew up going to as a kid. It was a tiny little stand and it didn’t even have a name, it just said what it sold. There was just an oven and enough room for 2-3 people, the cashier, the baker, and a kid who was helping out. To the right, you saw an older lady rolling the fresh bread grabbing for the thin slices of chorizo to wrap throughout. Then, the cashier and baker would reach into the wood-fired oven and bring out these beautiful wrapped loafs, like little babies, piping so hot you could barely hold it in it’s paper bag.

When we bit into it, we could see the steam escape. The first moment when that salty chorizo and the bread hit your tongue it was satisfaction in a bite. You kept eating because you were so hungry, but as the sore muscles and food coma came in, you couldn’t help yourself to sleep in the van, even as Nuno is pointing out all the places he grew up, the houses he jumped into with his friends, the hospital his son was born at. Your body wanted to rest so bad. To add to that the van had no AC.

We were coming back to Lisbon at 3pm or so and the weather got up to 114 F. If you have ever baked, you can understand what it means to feel like a cookie in a convection oven. The windows were open, hot air was circulating, and we were cooking. The one Canadian-French with us, Kiefer, was outright dying from the heat. He can out beat us in the cold, but the hot- it’s another story. He was silent most of the ride, like all of us, tired, beat, and beyond hot.

I know I’ll be making this for my boyfriend many times over because it’s so much better than a sandwich. Nothing falls out and the heat from the bread warms your hands so it feels so comforting to eat. It’s funny because the next stop on my journey would be Argentina, where they make “choripan” which is a variation, but in sandwich form with some fixings. For the peeople out there who like meat and bread, like my boyfriend, this is for you.
Recipe coming soon!!!
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