The expo, or universal exhibition, is one of those events where flags are let waved. I cannot avoid to be fascinated. The idea of supremacy of technology and the competition among the nations (previously colonial powers) for the most cutting edge technology and innovation stand with affectation under the idea of setting up unusual stands.
I remember the sadness of the 2008 Zaragoza Expo and the still now decent urban architecture of the Lisbon’s one. In China, Shanghai, I was not in the Expo area, but basically all nations went there. This time, in my country, Milan, so many as 40 are missing. Global crisis? Less attracting venue? Can’t say.
By subtraction, this is the list of invited and not coming countries:
Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Cipro, North Korea, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Philippines, Finland, Jamaica, Djibouti, Guyana, Iceland, Marshall Islands, Salomon Islands, Kiribati, Lesotho, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Rep. of Congo, Macedonia, Saint Kitts e Nevis, Samoa, Singapore, Somalia, Micronesia, South Africa, South Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Swaziland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu.
Among the others, I would like to talk a little about the country where I currently live: Portugal. Portugal was an Empire, the most underestimated in history, probably, for the contribution of nowadays world. It fell as the Portuguese fascism did not realize that colonialism was over after WWII. This mistake paved the way to the fall of Portuguese fascism in 1974.
Now, as a matter of curious nemesis, all previous countries of its empire (called more politically correctly Lusophon countries, countries talking Portuguese) are at the Expo: Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe and Timor Leste (about the latter I hope I’ll have time to spend a post about later on).
Portugal is not coming to Expo to save some million euro of public budget. They are responsible, and I may appreciate that. However, they are missing a strong opportunity: to let the world know the almost totally unknown Portuguese food (usually, only patisserie from Lisbon is famous). Have you ever seen a Portuguese restaurant? Me not. Considering the forthcoming TTIP among European Union and the US, and the taste of American for tasty and not-exactly-healthy food, a particular course could be a big success: the francesinha. Despite the name that refers to France and its supposed grandeur, it is a very typical course of the north of Portugal.
Its description: imagine the most flamboyant of the double cheese-burger. Well, double it! It appear to you as a cube of melted cheese in a pond of strange orange sauce where potatoes might float or be served apart. The surprise of cutting a section of it makes you realize the intrinsic perfection of the concept: layers of bread embody the function to sustain the filling meat like the mortar of floors in a building: German sausages, real sousages, ham, bacon and entire real pork chops. Juicy isn’t it? Well, the special version may add even an egg, in case the eater would require some more proteins and cholesterols (“Feeding the planet”…). Concept goes beyond, because as you start struggling against it, bread starts to sop up with the sauce. Is this enough? No. A good waiter around here will assist you offering (for free, of course) some extra sauce to don’t live you the shame to eat any single dry crumb of bread. There is even a super special version of it called francesinha de massa folhada. [Spanish people don’t laugh! It’s not that!] It means that bread is made of puff dough. When you look at it and you don’t know what they are serving to you, you might believe you have been lucky because you got the light, thinner version. Reality shows up soon to be pretty different. Under this circumstance, the closest allays of yours remain the fried potatoes, that you may look at as the equivalent of some unseasoned healthy vegetable. The consequence is more likely that you will have nightmares (if you are 0k) or a heart attack (if you already were not so 0k). I am not able to scribble so much, but Fellini or Sergio Leone would have been capable to direct a scene of a triumph like that. I look forward for Sorrentino talking about this.
What is more, a francesinha can be, accordingly to its appearance when it is served, a perfect idea to arrange those pavilions that can be seen in these occasions. To enter a francesinha-pavillon would be an experience none who like to eat strong stuff could forget. Remember the Woody Allen’s spermatozoa entering the dark place they were trained for? A less hard-core Freudian reference can be Nanni Moretti’s Nutella. A mixture of anxiety, sense of liberation, fear for the unknown, the thrilling sensation to go to die for one’s destiny and for the glory of the future. Coping with a Francesinha is all about that.
Probably the vegans would recognize all that as blasphemy like the Catholic priest saboteur did in that movie, but for them the wonderfully fried potatoes with molho (the special sauce I was talking about made with beer too, only around Porto you can buy it in ready to use bottles) ought to keep them quiet and busy to eat an exquisite and simple course. Mind that fried potatoes are not French fries! The only French thing here is the name. They are real thick chunks of potatoes fried only in the surface and perfectly fluffy inside. Potatoes like only a grandma can cook.
Francesinha is like the juicy and delicious steak eaten by the betrayer in Matrix who wants to live in peace and not to live in agony as a rebel. The difference is that a francesinha is real, does not require ignorance, and is even very cheap indeed.
There is peace and harmony for everybody, in ordering a Francesinha.