On my first night in Porto I met up with my new friends Melissa and Justin whom I met on my flight from Lisbon and their friend Christie for dinner. We chose a small restaurant near the Douro River. The owner was very friendly and made to effort to come speak to us throughout the night. With excellent wine and excellent company, it was my opportunity to tryFrancesinha, a culinary specialty of Porto held in high regard by the locals. In a way, Francesinha seems like it would be the invention of an American college student armed with some limited ingredients trying to throw something together on a Saturday night under the influence of some substances or something the team at Epic Meal Time would come up with to push the boundaries of their fat and calorie capacities.
The sandwich consists of two pieces of bread with hams, sausages, roast meat, and tomato with a slice of melted cheese on top and a secret sauce served with a side of French fries—mine also had an egg on top. It was a challenge to eat the whole thing and it seemed to me really gimmicky that this was the food that visitors had to try, but I was definitely not hungry after a long, hard battle with the massive sandwich.
While topping off a night with some beers at a bar, a group of Porto locals eager to speak to us were quickly offended when we downplayed the reputation of Francesinha. This amounted to what seemed like an attack on the identity of Porto itself. I learned with Francesinha that when the locals of a given place point to a dish to represent their city they attach to it a special feeling of home, the warm feelings of growing up with that dish and always being able to depend on that dish to satisfy a unique hunger and craving. Thus, with the glorification of a local dish comes an insistence upon its infallibility. Never get caught saying anything short of praise.