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Exchanging Cultures

Hi All,

As the weeks go by, I am getting more chances to participate in the classroom. One of my primary goals is to help introduce the students to American culture. Last week, I gave one of my classes a presentation on American culture and history, with an emphasis on the Mountain West region where I grew up. The presentation went well, and I will have the opportunity to give it to several other classes this week. I am also planning to teach my elementary classes duck, duck, goose, and am putting together a lesson about Thanksgiving.

Of course, this cultural exchange goes both ways. This has been a great opportunity to learn about Portuguese customs and ways of life, and I thought I should share some of my observations with you.

First, the cuisine. Trying new food may be my single favorite part of travelling, and I always try to sample the local fare. Below, you will find a picture of a typical Portuguese plate:  fish, roasted potatoes, and spinach, with a glass of red wine on the side. Given Portugal’s location on the Atlantic, it follows that seafood features prominently in the cuisine. I have eaten fish fried, grilled, roasted, and as part of soups and casseroles. The picture below is of salmon, but the most commonly eaten fish is bacalhau, or codfish. One of my coworkers told me that there are 100 different traditional ways to prepare it! Portugal also has an abundance of delicious soup, the perfect warm snack on cold, rainy autumn days. And of course, Portuguese love their coffee. I like to order mine as a meia de leite, which is an espresso shot with steamed milk, alongside a pastel de nata, a popular cream pastry which originated in Lisbon.

Like other Southern European countries, Portugal has a strong wine culture. The country’s unique wines span the spectrum from Vinho Verde, a crisp, sweet white wine, to Port, which takes its name from its origin city (Porto). Red Port tastes like liquor, at least to my admittedly inexperienced palate, and is often served with desert. This weekend, I traveled to wine country with my host family. It is remarkably beautiful, with rolling hills colored by rows and rows of colorful terraces on which the grape vines grow.

Finally, just as I will teach my students about Thanksgiving this week, I have also been exposed to traditional Portuguese holidays. In Portugal, November 11 is São Martinho’s day. The Portuguese commemorate the day by eating roasted chestnuts, which I had never heard of before outside of the famous Christmas song (“chestnuts roasting on an open fire….”). My school ordered the chestnuts from a local bakery, and had all the students and staff come outside for a party when they were delivered.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Until next time,



Below: Me presenting in class, a meia de leite with pastel de nata, a Portuguese dinner plate, pictures from wine country, and chestnuts. 

Presenting Chestnuts


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