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History, Horchata And Hope: How Classic Kiosks Are Boosting Lisbon's Public Life

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History, Horchata And Hope: How Classic Kiosks Are Boosting Lisbon's Public Life

Hidden Kitchens: The Kitchen Sisters

History, Horchata And Hope: How Classic Kiosks Are Boosting Lisbon's Public Life

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Today we continue with our new season of Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food. This morning, The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, take us to the plazas of Lisbon, Portugal, where small kiosks once served food, drink and conversation.

Those kiosks had been abandoned for decades under a dictatorship that suppressed public gatherings. Now food entrepreneurs are drawing people back to public spaces by deploying The Kiosk Strategy.

CATARINA PORTAS: In the beginning, it was called The Elegant, the official name. But people started calling the kiosk La Boia. Like you have in the boats a buoy, the kiosk could save people with a drink (laughter). Lisbon can be quite hot in the summer. The kiosk would offer refreshment when people would go around town.

JOAO REGAL: This kiosk has been here forever, for nearly 100 years old, part of a trend of creating these Art Noveau kiosks as an elegant place to go for drinks. This kiosk is bright pink, Moorish-influenced design. My name is Joao Regal. I'm an architect. Catarina Portas and I run quiosques de refrescos, the refreshment kiosk.

PORTAS: The main reason I started a kiosk is because I walk a lot around the city. And so I was seeing in front of me, in the middle of the street, in gardens, in squares these sad, closed structures. From the 19th to the 20th century, there were, like, 100 different kiosks in Lisbon. The city was full of them.

The idea was brought from Paris. I start to think - how could we bring this to our times? My name is Catarina Portas. We have four kiosks and (speaking Portuguese), some shops that sell traditional products from old Portuguese companies.

MIGUEL MUSHADINO: My name is Miguel Mushadino, 26 years old. I work in the kiosk in night shift from 5 to 2 a.m. That woman, you can see that she's a tourist. Then we have a famous Portuguese actress. Then you have the guy with the dreadlocks. Those people that you are seeing here in the tables, they are the locals - come here every day.

Sometimes people are even ashamed, but they just have money for one coffee. I know a lot of people, they are passing a hard time because of the crisis, yeah. It scares me a little bit. A lot of friends of mine, they are already going to other countries because even our prime minister is asking us to go away.

TIM SIEBER: Portugal is one of the poor countries on the edge of Europe, on the margins. The salaries there have been about a third of what the European Union average is. I'm Tim Sieber, professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I research life in cities. Lisbon has a strong culture of public places, third places, you might call them - cafes, restaurants, beautiful plazas.

MARINA TAVARES DIAS: Just like Paris, we were a city of cafes. Kiosks played a very important role in the street life of Lisbon. My name is Marina Tavares Dias. I write books about the history of Lisbon. In the beginning of the 20th century, kiosks had a bit of everything - newspapers, lottery, food, drinks. You'll always meet somebody you know because you are in the center, outdoors.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UMA CASA PORTUGUESA")

AMALIA RODRIGUES: Casa Portuguesa.

SIEBER: In the 1920s, Antonio Salazar came into power for almost half a century. He introduced a right-wing, dictatorial regime, the Estado Novo. He didn't like intellectual debate, public gatherings, cafe culture. These were things that Salazar thought undermined what it was to be really Portuguese.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UMA CASA PORTUGUESA")

RODRIGUES: (Singing in Portuguese).

ELLEN SAPEGA: My name is Ellen Sapega, professor of Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the 1980s, Portugal joins the European Union. People wanted to get rid of the stuffiness of the Estado Novo and to embrace a more modern idea of Portugal. The European money is coming in, the easy credit. And that's the time when global brands and fast food restaurants enter into Portugal. There were urban renewal projects. The kiosk would not fit into certain strategies of modernization.

REGAL: Gradually, the old kiosks just shut down. They'd become dirty places and not so proper. They were not elegant anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "O SILENCIO DA GUITARRA")

MARIZA: (Singing in Portuguese).

PORTAS: There was this contest from the city council asking for proposals to reopen the kiosk.

REGAL: We went to the city council with amazing photographs of the old kiosk. And we prepared all the old drinks and made them taste the drinks.

PORTAS: (Laughter) That convinced them.

REGAL: Our parents and grandparents used to drink these natural drinks, handmade, and you can't find them anymore. Why is that?

Some of the recipes are one, 200 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Portuguese).

REGAL: Perfumed milk with cinnamon and lemon, any fusion made out of maiden leaves with orange blossom.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Horchata.

REGAL: Horchata, made out of almond.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ginge con ellas.

REGAL: It's called ginge.

PORTAS: It's a liquor with ginger. You drink it in very, very small glasses. The person who is serving that always asks (speaking Portuguese), with her or without her? With her is with the cherry in the glass.

JOSE SA FERNANDES: My name is Jose Sa Fernandes, Lisbon city councilor of environment. The Kiosk Strategy is a way people begin to use the squares and the gardens nobody used. The idea is to put some small kiosks to serve refrescos, more people in the places, more secure are the places.

SAPEGA: In the neighborhood where I live in Lisbon, a kiosk opened about four years ago. This was a neighborhood that probably never would have had a kiosk before. There was a garden, but it was in a state of neglect.

The day they opened was a hot day in the beginning of the summer. And all of a sudden, the lights came on. And you could see everybody from the neighborhood drawn into the garden. The kiosk immediately became the gathering place.

MUSHADINO: I see a lot of old people here. They lived in Salazar's season, and because of the kiosk, they are starting to accept more the others.

REGAL: Now we're heading to Praca Das Flores, the Flower Square, in central Lisbon. It's a quiet little square where all the old ladies go. They leave notes for each other on the kiosk. They leave the keys. They feel it's theirs, The Kiosk Strategy (laughter).

MONTAGNE: The Kiosk Strategy was produced by The Kitchen Sisters and mixed by Jim McKee. You can hear more Kitchen Sisters stories on their podcast, "Fugitive Waves."

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