Atkins Diet be damned. I love carbs and can’t imagine life without them. They’re a staple of my everyday diet and the thought of cutting them out completely? Forget it. I don’t know if I could survive a day without bread, cereal or pasta. Willpower? When carbohydrates are involved I have none.
Of course I am a competitive athlete and eating carbs is one of the best ways to keep my body fueled. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry too much about what I consume. However, since arriving on Madeira - aka the land of fresh baked everything, I’m convinced I eat enough carbs to feed 3 people. Allow me to explain. In Madeira it’s tradition to start your morning with a small, strong, sweet bica (coffee) and a few pieces of warm, soft, fresh baked bread straight from the oven. This aromatic scent is second to none and seems to grab hold of my appetite without shame. Having the willpower to stop after 2 pieces is a common goal and after enjoying the luscious taste of said bread, the thought of eating store bought full of preservatives is revolting. I can’t believe how spoiled I’ve been this season in Portugal. Not only do I live on a beautiful island with gorgeous weather, (except for the past week and a half of rain) but I get to consume fresh baked everything everyday – which can be quite dangerous…
A pastry a day (or more!) keeps the doctor away. At least that’s the motto Casey and I have taken up since living in Madeira. Everywhere you walk you can’t help but stumble upon a small café selling coffee and fresh baked pastries. And at €0.60 a pop, it’s a crime not to walk in and buy a filo de chocolate or pastel de nata. I would necessarily call this a good habit, but when your job requires you to workout a minimum of 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, I think it’s ok. If this wasn’t the case I’d definitely kick the habit, or else I’d be carrying an extra 10 pounds of unwanted weight!
These sweet treats are hard to resist – the smell, softness and warmth make them an everyday necessity and have me craving another after each bite. The hardest part is knowing when to stop. I wish I was joking, but Casey and I probably consume at least 2 a day, cutting down from our previous high of 3.
But it doesn’t end with pastries. As mentioned earlier, the fresh bread here is amazing and is used in many different ways. My personal favorite is Bolo de Caco (garlic bread.) You haven’t experienced great garlic bread until you’ve eaten a Bolo de Caco. To sum it up in one word - amazing, mouthwatering, irresistible. Ok, that’s 3, but I think you get my point. The warm, soft, circular shaped flat bread is cut in half and smothered with warm garlic butter and oregano. Mmmmm….I can’t even begin to describe its wonderful taste. It’s something that must be experienced and sadly can only be found in Madeira and not mainland Portugal. In fact I think I’ll go get one tonight…
As much as I enjoy eating and experiencing the assortment of fresh baked goods on this island, I feel somewhat guilty writing about the topic, as both my brother and dad have Celiac disease. Sorry guys! Sadly, they can’t eat anything that contains wheat, gluten, barley or rye. If they do, the reaction is very unfavorable and bad for their health. Thank goodness their willpower is stronger than mine. I’m not sure how they do it, but I guess I’m glad they’re not here or I fear the temptation would be too great!
Basketball Update: Last night we played Olivais for the 3rd time this season. It was a Cup game, which doesn’t count against league standings but is almost as important, if not more important. Winning the Portuguese Cup comes with high regard – it’s like winning the league. Unfortunately, our draw had us facing our rivals to get into the Final 4, when really, it should have been the Cup final. Olivais won’t have any trouble securing the Cup now after beating us. We had defeated Olivais twice this season, both close games by 3-4 points. It’s always difficult beating a team 3 times in a row and that proved true last night. We played an inspired 1st half, only down 5 at the break. However, the 2nd half was a complete disaster. We didn’t play as a team. And that’s exactly why we lost. Instead of playing together to get a ‘W’ people were dribbling down the court going one on one whenever they touched the ball. We rarely ran a play, no one boxed out and there was no help side defense or rotation. Too many people were looking out for themselves. It was like we were a high school team playing seasoned pros. It was embarrassing. A team we had been victorious over twice this season beat us by 18. Eighteen!!! Unacceptable. I hate the feeling of losing, especially when not experiencing it much. We’ve only lost 4 games this year and I wasn’t here for 2 of them. The last time we lost was at the beginning of December – so I had forgotten what it felt like. This is a good reminder, as I don’t want to feel it again. Though we lost, Casey and I both had solid games, shooting better than 50% from the field. I finished with 16 and 10 and Case had 16 and 8. I shot 8 times and only had 2 shots in the 2nd half…hmmmm…that doesn’t seem right. With no game this coming weekend coach is going to work us hard with 2 a day practices all week. Interesting…
On a brighter note, Casey and I participated in the All-Star game last weekend in Moimenta Da Beira (a TINY, I’m talking mini, town in Northern Portugal.) Our hotel was almost 30 minutes from the gym, as it was the closest accommodation. They had the men staying at a different hotel, which was probably a good idea. At social hour Casey and I felt like we were being surrounded by a pack of wolves. It was funny and made for very interesting conversation…haha. The festivities were fun and on the first day we were down on the court supporting Jason (our men’s player) in the 3-point contest. He shot great and made it to the finals. In the championship match he hit way more 3’s than the other guy, but missed almost all the money balls, losing 18-21. It was too bad, as he was clearly the better shooter. The dunk contest was somewhat entertaining as there were only 2 guys who were good dunkers. We were joking with the Olivais girls that we should have entered and done fancy layups; no joke, we probably would have received higher scores than some guys who put up some seriously weak dunks. The next day the teams took the court with our Sul team (South) being quite a bit weaker than the Norte (North) team. However, we only lost by 7 (102-95.) I started the game and finished with 12 and 11. All-Star games are always weird to play in because everyone is trying to show off and get up as many shots as they can. I came in with the attitude that I was going to run the floor and rebound, which is basically how I scored all my points. I had fun during the game and afterward spent time chatting with the other (North) Americans about life abroad. It’s always nice to spend time with people who can relate with what you’re going through. After our game we showered and sat courtside to watch the men. In all honesty I think our game was much more entertaining. The guys didn’t want to pass the ball to one another and were going 1 on 1 every time down the court. It wasn’t that fun to watch. I was pleasantly surprised with the crowd that was on hand. The facilities were the best I’ve seen so far in Portugal and the gym was full of spectators. They were loud and supportive with little kids running around like crazy trying to get each player to sign their t-shirts. All in all it was a fun weekend, one I was glad I was a part of.
I was hoping to take some of the strain off my swollen achilles this week, but after our horrific loss I don’t see that happening. I guess I'll have to suck it up. Our men (who are in 2nd place) play Benfica – the best team in the league Sunday. It’s going to be a great game and I can’t wait to cheer the guys on.
Sidenote: Congrats to the UW men who clinched a share of the Pac-10 title Saturday. Ahhhhhh BOW DOWN!