The High Mountains


We drove up and up and up.  The roads became a succession of hairpin turns so close together that they filled the GPS screen with the traversing green lines.  Spring rain turned to hard balls of hail.  The medieval town of Sortelha, stone buildings low to the ground, blended in with the giant  landscaping boulders.


All the while, we are listening to The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel.  Tomas, the protagonist,  is struggling to coax one of the first cars in Portugal up these mountains to recover a unique religious relic he needs to find. But Tomas is really working through his thoughts of the three people he loved most in the world:  his son, the mother of his son, and his father, all lost in one week to diphtheria.  He thinks that “love is a house with many rooms, this room to feed the love, this one to entertain it, this one to clean it, this one to dress it, this one to allow it to rest, and each of these rooms can also just as well be the room for laughing or the room for listening or the room for telling one’s secrets or the room for sulking or the room for apologizing or the room for intimate togetherness, and, of course, there are the rooms for new members of the household.  Love is a house in which the plumbing brings bubbly new emotions every morning, and sewers flush out disputes, and bright windows open up to admit the fresh air of renewed goodwill.  Love is a house with an unshakable foundation and an indestructible roof.” (Martel, 2015)

This metaphor is meaningful for all of the love relationships I have in my life, but none more than my 33 year long marriage.  Every day, we explore the rooms of this big, old house,  shifting spaces as our moods or necessity urges us.  I never get tired of it, honestly never.  Every day has a fresh energy that intrigues me.


After exploring the icy cobble-stoned alleys of  Sortelha, we found a local country restaurant and warmed up with a dish of fluffy potatoes and bacalhou with a side dish of braised lamb.  The potato dish incorporated turmeric and cardamom,  reminiscent of Indian spices, but then that makes sense given the fierce way in which the Portuguese engaged in the spice trade.  All of these factors are part of figuring out what Portuguese cuisine means.