I once met the caretaker of the Little Free Library in Conchas during my first visit to Lisbon. A lovely man, who showed me the proper way to eat nata.

He had a tale to tell about bacalhau. He was sent to East Timor as a doctor, and packed a dried codfish in his luggage in preparation for a birthday feast.

I've tasted bacalhau, and it takes all types, I guess, but for him it was a delicacy.

Unfortunately his flight went via Darwin in Australia, and when the Darwin customs people found his cod piece, they were going to destroy it as a prohibited import and an affront to civilised dining.

My friend Joaquim was horrified. Could he not just take it with him on the next plane?

No, they said, wrinkling their snooty noses. It must be destroyed, that's the law.

Luckily each bacalhau carcass has a tag showing its provenance, so even though it was just a hunk of dried fish, it also qualified as a packaged food, which is a legal import, and was saved for the birthday feast in Dili.

If you ever want to know something fascinating about Little Free Libraries - or anything, really - go see Joaquim in Conchas. Just sit down at the nearby cafe and watch for him. He's a total sweetie!


Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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