It feels like a really long time since we booked the tickets to visit Pico Island in the Azores, but we’re finally here! After a sleepless overnight flight and some island hopping, we arrived at our destination at around 10:30am, local time.
We were exhausted but thrilled to finally be in Pico.
It’s a small airport so we could see my parents as we stepped off the plane. They were excited to see us and their grandkids.
Pico is always a perfect vacation spot for us. The island has just the right balance of modern day convenience and raw natural beauty that hasn’t been disturbed by the tourism industry. The people are friendly and welcoming, and the food is incredible!
My second home…
I lived on the Island of Pico for 8 years, so it feels like home whenever I come back. I still recognize most of the town’s residents and everything feels very familiar.
A stroll from my parent’s place to the dock can sometimes take double its normal time because I end up running into friends and family along the way and we stop for a greeting and brief chat. It has, after all, been three years since our last visit and I moved from here to Canada almost 30 years ago. It’s always nice to catch up with this friendly community.
So much generosity!
Ever since we arrived, people have dropped off gifts of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, and baked goods, and we’ve received many invites for lunch or dinner. This is how this small community works… if someone grows bananas, they share bananas with friends and neighbours. If a neighbour goes fishing, they share some of their catch, and so on and so on. These people have each-other’s backs.
This is true generosity, when a person gives something to someone else without the expectation of receiving something in return. They simply have something in abundance, and they want their friends and family to enjoy it as well.
“You have to come over for some food”
That’s a sentence we’ve grown accustomed to hearing since we arrived. People invite us over to hang out, catch up and eat delicious food. We’ve already enjoyed some invites and we’re looking forward to a few more lunches and dinners that are planned out for the remainder of our stay.
One of the dinner invitations came from my cousin Helder and his wife. Helder and I are cousins and good friends. I’ve often said to people that if there’s ever to be a world-wide loss of satellites and electric power he’s the guy I’d want to be near.
He’s perfectly in tune with modern day living, but he’s also very knowledgeable in the old-school way of doing things. He catches most of the fish his family eats through-out the year through fishing on a boat or spearfishing, and he grows a huge variety of fruits and vegetables.
Helder has no problem living off the land and sea. This is a lost skill and I have a ton of respect for him.
We were hanging out by the town’s pool when he and his wife invited us over for dinner at his property – a piece of land he uses as a campsite when he wants to sleep under the stars. He and his family really appreciate their seaside outdoor space. He said, “this wasn’t planned, but we want to have you guys over for dinner tonight”. Needless to say, they had a wonderful feast of fresh fish and seafood for us – all caught by him and his teen children (who have also gained their dad’s skills).
Limpets / Lapas
The fish couldn’t be fresher (short of eating it on the boat), and it was grilled over an open fire with a beautiful view of the ocean right in front of us. For me, a highlight of the meal was the grilled limpets (lapas) we had as appetizers.
I grew up eating these shelled morsels of ocean goodness, live off the shell. People would go onto the coastal rocks during low tide, and pry them off the rocks using a file-like tool with a point. The goal was to eat them live and as fresh as possible, because it was (and is) dangerous to eat them if they’re dead (from unnatural causes), but over the past 3 decades, grilled limpets (lapas) have become the new delicacy.
There are two great reasons for eating them grilled. The first and most important is that they taste amazing! The second reason, is that they don’t have to be eaten immediately. They can be caught, quickly frozen and eaten at a later date.
The way these limpets were prepared at Helder’s was so rustic. A simple grill on an open fire inside a wall of lava rock and the ocean just over the grill’s wall. Our view was incredible and my tummy was so happy.
Creating new memories.
It’s been good to be “back home”. I love reminiscing about “the good old days” with friends and family. Even more important than reminiscing is the fact that we’ve been busy creating new wonderful memories with and for our family.
Michael is off on a short camping trip on another Island with with my friends’ kids while we’ve been at the ocean-filled pool everyday with our little guy. We’ve spent time with family we haven’t seen in years, we’ve eaten delicious food and we’ve had time to truly relax and re-energize.
Visit the Islands!
If you can, I encourage you to visit the Azores. The Azores, an archipelago of 9 islands (National Geographic) is a paradise in the middle of the Atlantic. Flights are fairly inexpensive, people are friendly, landscapes are breathtaking, and we’re quite certain that you’ll eat well, friends.
These Azores-style grilled limpets (lapas) are so tasty! If you want to try a traditional flavour of the Azores islands, you have to try this recipe.
- 4.4 lbs or 2 kg frozen limpets (lapas)
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1/2 lemon for squeezing over the grilled limpets
- Sea salt and water for defrosting the limpets
Preheat the Barbecue to 450 ºF with the lid closed.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and mix in sea salt until it tastes like ocean water.
Add the limpets to the cold water and let them defrost until none of the limpets are stuck to each other. You can gently help detach them.
In a small microwavable bowl, add the butter, garlic powder and ketchup.
Heat in the microwave for just a few seconds until the butter is softened.
Mix the garlic butter mixture well.
Place the limpets on a flat topper or griddle that can be used on hot barbecue grates/grids.
Brush the top of the limpets with the garlic butter mixture.
Place the flat topper or griddle on the hot barbecue grates/grids and leave the lid open.
Cook until the limpets start to disconnect from their shells. This can take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Squeeze lemon juice over the cooked limpets and enjoy them hot with some Portuguese cornbread or on their own.
Limpets may not be easy to find in your area. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you can find them in the Fortino's frozen foods section.