Portuguese American Journal

Book | How to Clean a Fish | by Esmeralda Cabral – Editor’s Note

How To Clean a Fish is an inviting family travel story about an extended stay in Portugal, full of food and cooking adventures, language barriers and bureaucracy, and that irresistible need to connect with the culture of our birth. After immigrating to Canada as a young child, Esmeralda Cabral remembers the initial shock―the weather, the wide and empty streets―and the immediate longing, saudade, to return to her homeland. That longing changed over time but never completely left. Cabral and her Canadian-born family had visited Portugal as tourists, but were now returning as residents for eight months, bringing along their Portuguese Water Dog, Maggie. Cabral has a deep desire to pass on her heritage to her children. By exploring the intricacies of adapting to a culture that is at once familiar and foreign, she reveals that the search for identity and belonging is a universal story. How to Clean a Fish will appeal to travellers and foodies, those curious about Portuguese culture, and to anyone who has moved from one place to another and is searching for their own version of “home.”


“These pages are as delicious as the Portuguese food the author so enthusiastically writes about. Any English speaker interested in Portugal will gladly savor Esmeralda Cabral’s genuine narratives as a tasty introduction to Portuguese culture’s joys, appeals, intricacies, and mysteries. She is well-versed with food, fado, the language, and even soccer, but she has to negotiate how to feel somewhat at home in the complex web of subtle Portuguese ways.” Onésimo Teotónio Almeida, Brown University

“With the keen eye of a traveller, Esmeralda Cabral serves up close depictions of daily life in Costa da Caparica, including market days, pastéis de nata, and Portuguese hospitality. Told with warmth and layered with Cabral’s nuanced reflections on home, belonging, and family, How to Clean a Fish is an enticing memoir that will connect with readers.” Meaghan Hackinen, author of South Away: The Pacific Coast on Two Wheels

“Our easy-going and approachable narrator gives us a charming and entertaining book that is part travelogue, part memoir. Readers will find themselves cheering Esmeralda—and her family—on.” Scott Edward Anderson, author of Falling Up and Azorean Suite

“Esmeralda enthusiastically embraces the opportunity to live with her family in a beautiful fishing village near Lisbon. Sharing genuine conversation with folks she meets, exploring her love of fish, and constantly translating and interpreting for her husband and children, Esmeralda’s journey is rooted in an awareness of history and culture, and in the dilemma of belonging.” Maria Manuela Vaz Marujo, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto


About the Author

Esmeralda Cabral is a creative nonfiction writer born on São Miguel Island in the Azores, Portugal. She moved to Canada with her family when she was seven years old and grew up in Edmonton, Alberta before settling in Vancouver. With an academic background in Agriculture and Environmental Studies, she has worked in both fields for private industry, government, and as a consultant for large and small firms. Despite finding her work interesting,

But her dream has always been to be a writer. Esmeralda retired from environmental work and enrolled in The Writer’s Studio at SFU to earn a Certificate in Creative Writing. She taught ESL during the day and wrote at night. Esmeralda then returned to school again and completed an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2019. 


Book Details

Title: How to Clean a Fish: And Other Adventures

Author: Esmeralda Cabral

Publisher: University of Alberta Press

Publication Date: May 16, 2023

Language: English

Paperback: 320 pp ($27.99)

Follow Us

facebook twitter