The typical old Portuguese farmhouse kitchen is a sight to be seen. Still found and in use in many rural parts of Portugal, especially in the northern and central parts, it is a large open space where one can find everything that is necessary for the family’s cooking needs and get-together room. It can be adorned with a table and chairs, washing area with a granite sink, pots and pans, utensils hanging from walls, food, fruit and vegetables, wood oven for baking bread and inevitably, in one corner, the very large open fire hearth with a huge chimney area over it which is used for smoking hams ‘presuntos’ , chouriços, etc.
In the corner of this large hearth area there would always be an open fire and coals with a couple of magnificent Portuguese iron ‘potes’ or ‘panelas de ferro’ (pans), standing on three legs, where copious amounts of water would be heated and kept hot for many uses: washing up, adding additional water to a soup and in the old days for bath water. These ‘potes’ came in many different sizes, some I have heard, even holding 50 litres of water! They would also be used for a good soup cooked over the coals and I have always admired them. Today, they have passed from being used in the kitchen to adorning terraces and garden corners, where they are used as flower pots still holding their charm.
Kitchens vary from household to household, some simpler and others more elaborate with copper pots and pans, but the beautiful iron ‘potes’ are a firm feature of every old-fashioned Portuguese kitchen.
Another beautiful part of these old kitchens is the sink area where hand painted tiles adorn an old crafted granite sink where all washing up would be done. The hand painted tile work is so beautiful and unique and a real treasure.
In older and more simpler farmhouses, heating throughout the house during winter was unheard of and these wonderful old kitchens with open hearths were a central spot in the household for family members and friends to sit around keeping warm and discussing the day’s happenings. I remember many an evening such as this, stretching long into the night, where we would sit cosy in the old kitchen not wanting to leave the warmth and reminiscing over days gone by.