welcome to emmas housethought

cu de judas, saints, cakes and a convent

Houses built: 0.   Life Satisfaction Index: After opening at a record low following yesterday’s disastrous downturn, the index continued to lose points throughout morning trading. The market bottomed-out after midday and was then driven by a big-pharma, coffee, and sugar-fueled rally, settling again at the close of trading, in bed with the pets, a cup of tea and four pastries, at a comfortable 70.78%.

convent feira

pão de ló from confeitaria santa luzia, Figueiró dos Vinhos

I had a migraine yesterday so I was very dubious about today to start with. Needing to get to the vege market by midday, I was up earlier than usual and trying to remove a motherload of firewood from the car, when it became bogged – for the second day in a row. And for the second day in a row I had to beg for help from the neighbour’s tractor. Just as well I’ve been helping with the olive picking, so I am up on favour credits; but is there any capable person out there who likes asking for help? It’s tough-chick torture, I tell you.

chocolate convent cakes

chocolate cups from Óbidos

And I hate being treated like an idiot. They just assume I’m a shit driver when they see the tragic position of the car. But these roads are not roads! Maybe you could persuade a donkey to walk them if you beat it enough, but the fact is, they are not meant for driving cars on.

For several moments this morning I was really hating my life and hating this Cu de Judas village. Very unhealthy, violent thoughts. Not good.

Feira Figueiró dos Vinhos

biscoitos from Felgueiras

So meanwhile I’m back to olive picking to pass the time and rack up more credits until the tractor is available, but without food or drink, the migraine is back with a vengeance. By the time we get the car out (and the market is closed) I’m so ill that I can’t bear being spoken to. I ignore being shouted at to come for lunch (they are one of these families where everyone shouts. I swear they are all deaf) and throw the dog in the car and get the hell out of  there.


pasteis from Tentúgal, (but not pasteis de Tentúgal)

I’m already feeling better after the first coffee. Café Pingo Doce is filled with the smell of merendeiras (broa doce): small fruit buns like hot cross buns but heavier. They are traditional for All Saints Day (Nov 1) and apparently the porties take their All Saints seriously because there are boxed orders stacked up on every table. The merendeiras are coming straight out of the oven so I order three to take away… and they give me four… not sure if it’s because they know I love them, or because I look like I’m dying, or just because they’re nice people, but the random act of kindness was very welcome. Thanks Lucia & Fatima.


merendeiras; I like mine toasted with butter

Thus energised, I decide to visit the annual Feira Docaria Conventual in Figueiró dos Vinhos. There’s not really a huge doce tradition in this area, but they do have a convent which is only open for the Feira. Figueiró has adopted pão de ló (a light, vanilla, donut shaped cake) as their flagship doce conventual. Almonds, chila (from pumpkin) and doce de ovos are also very typical ingredients for the patisserie of this area.

The stands are very impressive this year, gorgeously arranged and full of hard-to-resist sweet things. They come from all around Central Portugal; from Tentúgal, Óbidos, Aveiro, Alcobaça, Felgueiras, Nelas and a local confeitaria that I’ve never noticed before. Happy about that. Must add to emergency contact list.

convent cakes

toucinho do céu

I bought a Papo D’Anjos (a small spongey blob made only of egg yolks, served in a sugar syrup sauce) and a slice of Bolo de Noz de Merengado. So now I have three boxes of goodies in my bag. Feeling good now.

And now for the convent. You just never know what’s behind these perfectly boringly rendered stone walls that you drive past every day. What a sublime little treasure the Convento de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is. Built in 1601, it has a feminine, delicately decorated chapel with half a cloister. Very charming, especially the blue timber pulpit and the azulejos in the church gallery.

figueiro dos vinhos convent

O Convento de Nossa Senhora do Carmo

The convent was built on private property by a local noble. It was at certain times used as a hospital, a college of arts, the poor house and even a tiny branch of the philosphy school of the University of Coimbra. The ‘barefoot carmelite’ nuns were turfed out in 1834 when all the religious orders in Portugal were abolished, and the final tenants left in 1956. It may have been at this time that the property was divided and a high wall was built diagonally across the cloister. Nice bit of planning regulation, not. The convent and church were restored in 2000 and the building listed.

convent chapel

O Convento de Nossa Senhora do Carmo


  1. Isabel November 6, 2009 7:07 am Reply

    I have some comments to make, and a question:

    1) Pão de ló with vanilla??? Heresy!!!

    2) Merendeiras doces??? I thought they would have bits of presunto or chouriço inside.

    3) Our Lady with blue eyes??? Coming all the way from Scandinavia or what?

    4) What do they drink in this delicious looking chocolate cups in Óbido??? Let me see… Zabaglione? Or the Portuguese poor parent, a gemada with a few drops of portwine? Or, come to think of it, straight port! Ginginha, with or without? Something with vanilla would be nice, too…

    And, last but not the least, if your migraines have anything to do with your gallbladder, I’m afraid that Portugal is the wrong place for you. Unless you retire to a carmelite convent.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 6th, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I’ve got to watch what i say with you around… keeping ’em honest…
    first, I mean ‘vanilla’ not in the specific sense but in the ‘non-chocolate, strawberry or any other’ cake flavour. I’m not sure there’s any other way to say ‘normal cake flavour’ in english…
    Merendeiras they call them (and broa doce) and they are nuts and sultanas and spices only…. our lady with blue eyes must be the mother of the jesus that hung above my parents bed in the 70’s – he was blonde! Chocolate cups – ginginha. My sugar & fat intake could be one of many causes, and joinng the barefoots sounds great provided i get to bake (and they modernise the heating) 😉

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 28th, 2009 at 12:17 am

    I want you all to know that I’ve checked this merendeira/merenda/merendinhas thing, and although in coimbra this little broa doce/fruit bun is called meredinha, as it is elsewhere in portugal, but in figueiró dos vinhos they are called merendeiras – and they tell me si mas cá lhes chamamos merendeiras!!!

    [Reply to comment]

    Claudia_Sofia   Reply: February 24th, 2012 at 1:45 am

    @Isabel, My dad is from Figueiro dos Vinhos and I remember my Grandmother baking them during, Dia de todos os Santos and even Christmas, in a Stoneoven and they have nuts and sultanas inside and some herbs…I still remember the taste of cinnamon in it. They use to call them, in that region, Merendeiras…I myself use to called them “broinhas doces”. @Emma thanks for sharing it was really nice to remember my childwood, specially the summer holidays (were I use to be sent to, as we were living in Lisboa) and that beautiful Park in Figueiro? Does that still exists? xxx

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 24th, 2012 at 5:17 am

    well there is a kinda cute small park at the base of a grand staircase… but perhaps it has seen its heyday?

    [Reply to comment]

  2. sarah Whitehead November 6, 2009 7:12 am Reply

    again thanks for that, how come it’s already nov 6th in your neck of the woods, i know it seems worlds away in these mountains but is everyone else south of here on a different time zone?

    [Reply to comment]


  3. Emma November 6, 2009 7:39 am Reply

    @sarah Whitehead,
    um… the site was created in australia, so we are on sydney time, where it’s already tomorrow…

    [Reply to comment]


  4. Isabel November 6, 2009 8:51 am Reply

    Now, THAT is interesting! Jesus is sometimes sort of blondish and even blue-eyed. But his mother (or should I write His Mother?) always seems brown-eyed, I think.

    And come tho think of it, maybe I’m mistaking merendeiras for merendinhas…

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 6th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I’m quite fond of the little jesus in makeup… I have a collection of funnybabyjesus photos… maybe i’ll put them on facebook and start some lowercase vs uppercase religious controversy…?!

    [Reply to comment]

  5. Adam November 6, 2009 10:56 am Reply

    My own Life Satisfaction Index received just the boost it needed reading your latest (mis)adventures. Drive carefully, eat dangerously and love that baby Jesus.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 7th, 2009 at 8:30 am


    [Reply to comment]

  6. BlueMist November 7, 2009 6:18 am Reply

    Those chocolate cups look delicious. But can one drink out of them ? 🙂

    Too much suagar and fat content ..injurious to health 😀

    Again awesome pics.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 7th, 2009 at 8:29 am

    one can drink out of them – ginginha preferably. I’m going to continue with the sugar and fat content, as it does no harm to readers 😉 Thanks mishty.

    [Reply to comment]

  7. Paulo Reis November 8, 2009 12:08 pm Reply

    You need a 4×4 and a trailer …good luck e muitas merendinhas .

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 10th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I need a 4×4, a trailer, a lot of luck, and a bakery.

    [Reply to comment]

  8. Chris November 8, 2009 6:19 pm Reply

    What I want to know is how come you look as good as you do with all that pastry and chocolate around.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 10th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    well, thanks, chris. the answer is photoshop.

    [Reply to comment]


  9. Maria December 28, 2009 5:26 am Reply

    Deveria escrever em Portugues.. seria mais adequado, pra nos entendermos , né? 🙂

    “Cu de Judas”, é o nome de um livro de um grande autor Portugues: ANTONIO LOBO ANTUNES ..os doces q se refere, nem “discuto” …ehhehe. mas as fotos q tirou em figueiro dos vinhos, são representativas das n/ terras…. pena é q num tenha ainda conseguido apanhar a arvore enfeitada c sapatos velhos..mto interessante e poupa-se energia, independentem/ desta animar…mas por cá o habito são as fogueiras q além de iluminar, aquecem e apelam ao convivio ao redor delas..durante a noite … nas festividades…
    Boa estadia

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 31st, 2009 at 8:19 am

    vou ler em portugues mais este ano … talvez eu comemoraria com Sr Antunes? Avores enfeitadas com sapatos velhos? Tenho a ver! E fogueiras para iluminar e mais… um idea bonita e porque nao? Esta Inverno! 🙂

    [Reply to comment]


  10. mike fabish February 3, 2010 5:31 pm Reply

    Bitch. The only thing you have that I don’t want is the migraines.

    [Reply to comment]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin