1. You know something bad is about to happen you get called by your two first names.
Almost every Portuguese person has two first names. The second one is for the exclusive use of our mother when she is really angry at something we’ve done. So, if you hear someone call you by your two names, you can be sure that you are about to pay for something you have done.
2. You risk being caught by “Papão” if you go to bed later than you are supposed to.
This imaginary character is very popular among Portuguese mothers, who invoke him whenever we refuse to go to bed early. We are told that if a child is still awake when he visits, he will take her with him to a distant place, never to return.
3. A dish full of water and some drops of olive oil are the cure for your light malaise.
Our mothers call it “benzedura.” They say it treats “evil-eye,” something we can easily catch in the street when someone looks at us with bad thoughts. Whenever we get it, it’s imperative that this ritual is done to us. Otherwise, it might turn into a more serious disease.
4. You feel guilty when you throw bread in the garbage.
Bread is an important Christian symbol. It represents the body of Christ. Portugal is still a country with a strong christian tradition. Even if the family is not religious, mother always recommends we kiss the bread before we throw it away. It is a way to ask God forgiveness for mistreating his son’s body.
5. You know 1,001 ways to cook codfish.
Dried codfish is a fundamental part of Portuguese gastronomy. It is normally served at special occasions like Christmas or birthday celebrations. Every mother has her own special ways of cooking it. She proudly improves her skills on every recipe she learns. Inevitably, we end up learning some good tricks to cook the “bacalhau.”
6. Sweet cornstarch is the magical cure for every ailment of the soul.
Were your school grades lower than you expected? Did you have a fight with your best friend? Your loved one disappointed you? The best cure is to sit at the table and wait for your mother to cook you a warm dish of cornstarch with lemon zest, cinnamon, and sugar and tell you that everything will be alright.
7. When you are away from home for a long period of time, you start craving bean and cabbage soup.
This soup is a regular presence in every mother’s menu. It is a comforting dish, unmatched by any other soup in the world.
8. You tremble when you see your mother opening her wallet to show pictures of you to her friends.
Every Portuguese mother carries photographs of her children in her wallet. Normally they are pictures of you as a baby either getting your diapers changed or learning how the use the potty.
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões