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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Hawking “Fresh Sardines!” on Portuguese Coast


Varinas no novo mercado de peixe (Fishmongers at the new fish market) (Photo by Joshua Benoliel, 1912) Almada Virtual Museum from the Lisbon Municipal Archive

 

While the mouthwatering smell of sardines on a grill suffuses the air of summer festas, we recall a poem by Bulhão Pato, also a gastronome and acclaimed cook. The poem is not about clams, with which his name is associated with the dish, amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, according to Expresso (June 21).

 

No, the memoirist recreates the drama of catching and selling sardines in 1893, reported Expresso (June 14). He writes of Costa da Caparica whose name, capa rica (rich cape), is cloaked in legend as well as the region. Bulhão Pato references two titles of Mary, the mother of Jesus.


Nossa Senhora da Guia is known as the patron saint of sailors in Portugal and Brazil. However, Nossa Senhora do Cabo is celebrated only around Cape Espichel, where it is said that there was a finding of a miraculous liking to Our Lady on a rocky outcrop. The devotion to Nossa Senhora do Cabo is documented, for the first time, in a royal charter of Dom Pedro I, dated 1366. 

  

Viva da Costa

 

Com a sardinha, empilhada,               With sardines piling up,

Inda saltando vivaz,                         Still jumping lively,

Vem de cestina avergada;                  From a wicker basket;

E lá de baixo, da praia,                      They come from below, from the beach,

E sobe a pino o almaraz;                    The Tagus’ left bank rises to its height;

Mas nem por sombras cançada!         You can’t even imagine!

 

 

Pescadores e Varinas (Fishermen and Fishmongers) by Manuel Ribeiro de Pavia, mixed media on paper (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Cabral Moncada Leilões)

 

Faz vista de nova a saia,                    Take a fresh look at the woman,

Corada ao sol e puxada!                     Tanned by the sun and straining!

Descalça – o pé regular,                     Barefoot – the foot steady,

E brunido pela areia                          And burnished by the sand

D’essas arribas do mar.                      Of these sea cliffs.

 

Peixeira de Buarcos (Buracos Fishmonger) by Zé Penicheiro, without date, Série Costumes Regionais, Comissão Municipal Turismo da Figueira da Foz (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Almanaque Silva). Zé Penicheiro was born in Candosa, Tábua, in the Beiras, Coimbra District. 

 

Não se pode chamar feia.                   She can’t be called ugly.

Descaída e longa a trança;                  Her braid is long and low;

Affrontada de calor,                          Assaulted by heat,

O lencito desatado;                           Her kerchief untied;

E os beiços com tanta côr                   And her lips with so much color

Como a dum cravo encarnado!           As a red carnation!

 

Varinas (Fishwives) by Maria Adelaide Lima Cruz, 1923, watercolor on paper (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Cabral Moncada Leilões)

 

A mocidade é uma flor!                     Youth is a flower!

 

Magrinha – mas que vigor                 Skinny – but what vigor

No seu passo de balança!...                 In her swinging step!...

E, para apressar os passos,                 And, to speed up her steps,

São duas azas os braços!                   Her arms are two wings!

 

Peixeira de Buarcos (Buracos Fishmonger) by Zé Penicheiro, 1954, Série Costumes Regionais, Comissão Municipal Turismo da Figueira da Foz (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Almanaque Silva)

 

A venda deve ser boa,                         The sale must be good,

Que ha muitos que o mar não dá.       As there is a lot that the sea cannot give.

Com que alvoroço apregoa:                With what enthusiasm she cries out:

 

“Sardinha fresca!...frês-quiá!...”           “Fresh sardines!...fres-quiá…”

  

Vem as outras companheiras               The other fishwives come

Mais atrazadas. Avante!                     Very late. Let's go! 

Ao Monte, por essa encosta!                To Monte, on this slope!

Ao Monte, ao Pragal, e adeante,         To Monte, to Pragal, and onwards,

Que ha muito que o mar não dá!         As there is a lot that the sea cannot give!

 

Peixeira (Fishmonger) by Zé Penicheiro, 1954, Série Costumes Regionais, Comissão Municipal Turismo da Figueira da Foz (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Almanaque Silva)

 

“Sardinhas fresca!...da Costa!”           “Fresh sardines!...from Costa!”

“Viva da Costa!...frêsquiá!..."             “Viva da Costa!...fresquiá!...”

 

O pae andou labutando                       Father had been working hard

Por toda a noite! Puxava,                   All through the night! He hauled in the catch,

Mal vinha rompendo o dia,                The day was barely breaking,

O mar com fúria tamanha!...                The sea with such fury!...

 

Barcos e Varinas - Caparica (Boats and Fishwives) by Rogério Amaral, 1951, oil on canvas (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Cabral Moncada Leilões)

 

Por um ai – Jesus! Maria!                   Por um ai – Jesus! Maria!

Que o barco se não voltava!               What if the boat wouldn’t come back!

 

Nossa Senhora do Cabo!...                 Our Lady of Cabo!...

Nossa Senhora da Guia!                    Our Lady of Guia!     

 

Salvou-se toda a companha,              The whole expedition was saved,

E também la pescaria!                       And also the catch!

 

Marujo e varina (Sailor and fishmonger) by Eugénio Silva, without date, Trajes Regionais Portugueses (Regional Costumes of Portugal), edição Âncoa   (Photo from Almada Virtual Museum, Almanaque Silva)

 

Foi a Senhora do Cabo!...                    It was Our Lady of Cabo!...

Foi a Senhora da Guia!                        It was Our Lady of Guia!

 

Ao monte, por essa encosta,                On the mountain, on this slope,         

Que ha muito que o mar não dá!         There is a lot that the sea cannot give!

“Sardinha fresca!...da Costa!...”         “Fresh sardines!...from Costa!...

“Viva da Costa! frês-quía!...”              “Viva da Costa! frês-quía!...”

 

 

Retrato de Bulhão Pato (Portrait of Bulhão Pato) by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, 1893, oil on wood. Bulhão Pato (Bilbao, Spain 1828 – Monte da Caparica 1912) 

 

 

 

 

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