On Bloor street, after Dufferin somewhere close to Gladstone Library but before Dovercourt street, was a bakery, where as a kid, if I had had the good fortune to have about 80 cents, would go in and point at the dessert that had this creamy filling which was so delicious, I still think about it to this day. If I remember correctly, it resembled a cream puff mixed with a Cannoli.
The lady who owned it, or a least worked at the register, and seemed to be the only one ever in the shop was Portuguese, short, and round bellied. I am 99% sure she was Portuguese because in those days nearly all neighborhood was, including most of the kids in my elementary school. Duarte, DaRosa, Miranda....with the odd Italian (Angelo Staffiari).
So of course, as you can imagine, walking the streets of Porto last week, hand in hand with my love, I kept looking out for this pastry. There was a lot of Nata, biscuits, mounds of codfish (note to self...I will be so happy if I never eat fish again), potatoes drenched in oil, and wine so sweet it will give you diabetes. But no cream puff.
Having spent the week prior in Vienna, it was startling to find myself in this riverside village that seemed to be both modern and ancient, poor and rich, water and earth. Vienna is all business, proud, ornate, clean to a fault, statuesque in concrete but with a refreshing and surprising wilderness to be found just along the banks of the Danube. Most of the time, there was a drape of raindrops. The city felt like an ex-boyfriend who became widely successful but was still emotionally unavailable.
Porto, on the other hand, quickly felt an old friend. A bit sassy and very charming. Comfortable - but she has to get to know you first. For every tile front she shows you, she's got a dark side around a winding street where beer is served with breakfast and tattoos are etched freely on limbs.
I think about the last few trips and marvel that in Europe, you can go 2 hours either way and everything changes. In Canada, you might still be in the same city. In fact, you might not have left the 401.
But what is so cool is within that Canadian city, you will find 1000 countries. Like Portugal baking joy for Ethiopia on their way home from school, by crossing Italy and heading towards Korea.