“The son of a fish can swim.”
Riding the bike was never my thing. I think I just learnt how to use such vehicle when I was already 10. But I learnt how to swim pretty early though. In fact, I can’t remember when. I don’t recall not swimming.
I’m not the son of a fish. But the son of the sea I certainly am. Everyone else in my family are fishermen, shellfish farmers, or run a business somehow connected to the sea. According to history (or as it states my first photos and curiosities album), Paulinho’s first laugh was when the fish slipped from grandma’s hands while she was cleaning it. By the way, Paulinho is a short name for Paulo. Yes, short name. Though it’s longer. Don’t ask me why.
I had a very happy childhood. I’m sure. Even though, I can’t really say I have a lot of memories from when I was a child. I can’t remember much from elementary school. I know I had really good grades. But I can’t remember how was the average day of school. I don’t know if the people who remembers every single detail from when they were young do really have such a great memory or if they just think they do. False memories are a real thing.
Honestly speaking, I could really be an unbearable diarrhea when I was young. Putting it in other words, I could be anoying as hell. I remember laying down on the floor in the middle of the street and throwing a neverending tantrum when I wanted something. Specially toys. I don’t blame mom for flogging me occasionally. I would drain the patience out of a saint, as we say it in Portugal.
My father is a shellfish farmer. He has always been. And he will always be. From his mouth come things like – “I should be winning the lottery to take my helicopter to the farm.” My dad really likes what he does. This probably doesn’t make much sense for people who can’t really picture a shellfish farm, but it works pretty much the same way as any other very small farm, except that your land will be under the sea most of the day. My oldman, just like a great part of the other islanders, makes is life raising and selling shellfish, more specifically clams and oysters.
My mom is a housewife. When I was a kid, she and my Aunt Mena (who’s unfortunately no longer among us) use to have a clothing shop – A Casinha – It means The Little House in portuguese. Later on A Casinha became Ponto de Passagem (The Waypoint), a busy café. This time the owner was my Aunt Mena, but my mom use to work there. She had worked there for many years. I remember my school mates telling me how lucky I was for spending so much time in a café full of candy. I always hated candy.
At the house, there was always fish and shellfish around. Easy to get that. That’s probably why one of my favorite dishes was grilled sardines. Grilled sardines and the traditional portuguese stew. Those were my favorite dishes. But I always was a “fish guy”. In fact, I was always a good eater. That’s why I went from “Paulinho gecko face” to “Chubby Paulinho”.
I am a son of the island. That’s for sure. My heart belongs to the Culatra Island, the place where I was raised and where I still have all my family. But it would be quite unfair to do not refer that a part of me is also olhanense. It was in Olhão (amongst other cities) that I went to school. It is in Olhão where I still have a great part of my friends. Well, some aren’t already there. The economical crisis made them leaving the country. Just like me.
In the Island there are no cars. The only way to get there is by sea. Pretty much every islander owns a boat. There are also several ferries a day leaving from Olhão to the islands. Many islanders take it on a daily basis, some to get to work, some to get to school and many just for shopping or taking care of something in town. The 07h45 ferry from Culatra and Olhão is normally quite full. It is a hard routine during winter times. Don’t fool yourself thinking that it’s always summer in the Algarve.
I’ve always been a good student. I was never much of a “home studying kid”. I never enjoyed sitting on a chair reading and memorizing notes. But school was never difficult for me. I always found school quite easy. In my school, the most challenging part for many was not even the school subjects, it was the school itself. You see, from 5th to 9th grade I attended to this very special school very well rated regarding its marginality and juvenile delinquency. EB 23 Dr. Alberto Iria School in Olhão, also known as C+S or the school by the jail (because it is located just right next to the city penitentiary facility). A lot of good fellas from back then are incarcerated, dead or simply connected to crime and drugs.
I was very young when I met rock. I blame my friends for it. Specially Pedro Rias. When I was a kid there was no highspeed internet to download mp3, the LP had long been dead and every other kid couldn’t really afford a sound system with a compact disc player. Back then the thing was the audio tape! Every summer I would wait for Pedro to come on vacation to the Island for us to spend hours listening to some rock music. It was when I was 12 that my dad gave me a sound system with CD player. The first album I bought myself was Anarkophobia from Ratos de Porão. A few months later I got myself a walkman CD and my music albums list started growing. Still, I never gave up on my audio tapes. There was still a lot of underground stuff quite hard to get on CD. That all changed with ADSL internet. Software like Soulseek or mIRC made it very easy. Nowadays everybody plays music on Spotify and most of the younger people have no ideia what the heck am I even talking about. Nothing against Spotify, don’t get me wrong. I’m also a subscriber and I find it an excelent music streaming platform. But I must confess I don’t get excited to truly know a band anymore. It’s not like when I would buy the original album in CD or audio tape and I would listen to it over and over again, squeezing all it’s juice to the last drop. I really doubt someone is listening to whole albums on Spotify nowadays.
Wjen I joined high school I already had this thing for writing and I was even already adventuring myself in poetry and prose. But the truth is that I just joined Languages and Humanities to skip maths. All my childhood I dreamt about becoming a biologist. Or something related to animals. I wanted to be the next David Attenborough. To be honest, I had no ideia what was he. For me he was a biologist. And he was doing a biologist job. Now I understand I could just have succeeded in Science and Nature if I just wanted to. And I also undersand that David Attenborough was never a biologist. And, in fact, I didn’t even finished Languages and Humanities. You see, it is quite stupid that you have to take decisions that will affect every single aspect of your future carreer when you’re 14. Even more considering that during the following years you will probably have your first sexual experiences, you will meet alcohol and other ilegal substances and you will probably have your heart broken by someone. And probably dued to all of that I ended up joining the Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo do Algarve (Hostelry and Tourism School of the Algarve), where I studied cooking and hostelry management. I finished both courses with pretty decent grades and very little effort. I any at all.
By this time, me and my friend went on a road trip through Portugal coastline. In the end of the trip I looked at a group photo. I looked at Daniel’s abs. Then I looked at my belly. I’m forever grateful to that photo. It made start training and my addiction for sports never stopped ’til this momment.
Some years later, already working as a chef for a while, my literature ghost started haunting me again. Regret. Regret from what I should have done. A feeling that has been very present my whole life. I’ve always been a very melancholic and subjective dude. Maybe it was wise to skip maths after all. For a whole year I prepared to take the national exam in portuguese language and literature. My goal was quite ambitious and nearly unrealistic. According to my maths, I needed to take a 19 (out of 20) to raise my grades high enough to get in the Science and Communication bachelor in Nova University. I ended up taking a 16,9 that made me get in the same bachelor in ISCSP in Lisbon and, apparently, it was the best grade of the Algarve in that year’s exam. Not bad for a former student I would say. A big thank you to my cousin Cátia who made that possible.
Well, well. I really got in college. A short adventure unfortunately. Things didn’t go as expected, specially on a financial level. I gave up when I realized I was never getting a scholarship. It would be fair to put that burden on my parents.
That was the year I “met” Joana. It is stupid to say we met, considering that we were pretty much raised in the same place and it is not possible not knowing someone in Culatra Island. But the truth is that we were never good friends. Honestly speaking, she never liked me that much. In fact, she hated me. But, though I’m a perfectionist and a tactitian who hate the unexpected, the unexpected sometimes can be the best life has to offer.
Me and Joana have pretty much lived together ever since. Enjoying the joys and sorrows of life, as it is. For better or for worse, we ended up in Norway, where we live now. She works as an orthotist, I work as a chef, as I always did. I also finished a personal training education here and I would like to work on that, but it didn’t happen so far.
This post is not about food. This post is not about nutrition. This post is not about veganism. This post is about choices. I was not raised eating lettuce. I was raised eating fish and shellfish. I was raised eating portuguese meat stew and grilled sardines. Spreading butter on the bread. Eating bifanas (portuguese pork sandwich) to cure the hangover. Eating beef chop suey at the chinese restaurant. Eating barbecued chicken and pork belly at Rafael’s. Eating god knows what at Mata-mulas (it means the Mules-killer in portuguese) because it was cheap.
You have no reasons. You have excuses.
Next time you tell me you like meat too much to let it go, just think that you may sound like an idiot. Next time you come to me with a sensational argument defending why you should eat meat, just think that I have probably heard it 15 times before. And also, that you may sound like an idiot. Next time you ask me – “What about chocolate? Can you eat it?”. Remember that my answer may be – “No, I’m allergic to everything but lettuce”. And, also, that you may sound like an idiot.