Newsletters  | Mobile

Driving Portugal | The Year of the Pig

Juliette Borda On the road in search of the best pork

Photo: Juliette Borda

Red and I carried our stomachs into the attractive little town of Mealhada the following day in a wheelbarrow. While walking the EN1 road—a noisy, clangy, crowded strip favored by truckers—we lost track of the number of restaurants with neon signs showing a pig lanced with a pole. I practically forced Red into Restaurant Pedro dos Leitões for a porcine lunch, then, as she started preparing divorce papers, into Rei dos Leitões ("The King of the Suckling Pigs," founded in 1947) for dinner. Both served pork that was deep and dusky, impossible to confuse with the other white meat.

Despite having five meals of pig in two days, I realized it would all be incomplete without a refresher from Negrais, so I sheepishly asked Red if she’d accompany me on one last gluttonous adventure.

"We’ve got to," she relented, and off we sped down the A1, the only road on which you can’t get lost. Paolo, our waiter from two years earlier, couldn’t believe we’d returned—and in such a rush.

"We’ve only got 30 minutes or we’ll miss the train to Madrid," I told him dramatically, and he immediately produced a platter. Mmm, superb. The chief difference between the Negrais and Bairrada versions is that the former is butterflied and the sauce loaded with pepper, and the latter cooked whole and served with a sauce so salty a tablespoon will send you running for the nearest waterfall. Which is better?That’s easy: both.

Paolo rushed us out the door after 31 minutes, our fingers still greasy, jamming some napkins and a bottle of local wine under my arm for our journey. Red and I zipped through a landscape more difficult than most video games and made the train. Then, feeling like pigs, we slept all the way to Madrid.

Jonathan Reynolds is a former food columnist for the New York Times. His new memoir is Wrestling with Gravy: A Life, With Food.


Sign Up

Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition