Reading the first words i believe you thought i was going to talk about calories,nutrition,diet..no way!I am going to introduce you to a marvellous world of color and flavor called Portuguese Cuisine.
Often Portugal is a zero in the big three European countries when it comes to food.Spain,France and Italy are at the top of the list either by the famous tapas(our petiscos)the sauces or the pasta.
It’s a shame, because Portugal’s contribution to the culinary world is immense!
In the 15th century, during the Age of Discovery, Portuguese explorers took to the sea in search of new lands. They sailed down to, and around, the African coast in pursuit of black pepper, gold and the riches of the Far East. It wasn’t long before Portugal had staked claims from Macau in China, to Goa in India, to Brazil in South America, to Mozambique and other African nations. The discovery of these new lands dramatically affected cooking in Portugal (and around the world, for that matter).
I was born in Africa, Luanda the capital of Angola, one of the early portuguese colonies just 14 times bigger than Portugal.The smell of this spices in the air, and the use of it in my mum’s cooking is still in my DNA as i keep using it despite living in Faro since my childwood. You can tell by the photo how much i loved food. We say you’re a good fork (és um bom garfo) when people like eating in quantity.
Acctually, we talk a lot about piri-piri in Algarve wondering how this spice came into our habits. Some believe the pepper was brought back on Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. Others are convinced that the Portuguese took the chili to the colonies of Mozambique and Angola, where it naturally cross-pollinated after being given a Swahili christening.
Eventually, the pepper made its way back to Portugal. May be due to the return of so many portuguese when the war for independence forced them to leave after 1975, it spred faster in the touristic area of the Algarve. No matter who’s wrong and who’s right, piri piri looks like a good marriage between Portuguese colonization and African social culture.
It is a regional speciality in the town of Guia, in Central Algarve.I can recommend you ‘’o Ribeirinho’’ and ‘’O Teodósio’’ as two choices of good restaurants to try it.
Other common ingredients are salt, spirits (namely whisky), citrus peel, onion, pepper, bay leaves, paprika,pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon.
But, what brings us here today is ‘’The Mediterranean Diet, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, and part of the identity of the Portuguese gastronomy.
Its basis is plants, including vegetables, fruit, good quality bread and largely unprocessed cereals, dried and fresh legumes (beans, chickpeas, broad beans, etc.), dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, raisins, etc.), but also olive oil as the main source of fat, and fish at the expense of red meat.
All of these foods, that we prefer to consume in season – and buy in local shops, if not in traditional markets, following the rhythm of the harvest and the working of the fields – are part of a simple and frugal cuisine that prepares them in such a way as to preserve their nutrients. So we have soups, stews, casseroles and chowders, which retain the antioxidant properties of the ingredients, contributing to a longer life for those who eat them.
The Mediterranean diet is further distinguished by the moderate consumption of dairy products, the use of herbs for seasoning instead of salt, the moderate consumption of wine and only with meals, the consumption of water as the main drink during the day and, not least, the companionship around the table. Indeed, a well-established characteristic of the Portuguese is to share meals, a ritual that brings together family and friends and is a mark of our hospitality.’
Extracted from www.visitportugal.com
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
“The Mediterranean diet is a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions related to human food, ranging from land to table, covering crops, crops and fishing, as well as the conservation, processing and preparation of food and, in particular, its consumption.
The nutritional model of this diet has remained constant over time and space, the main ingredients are olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, a moderate proportion of meat, fish and dairy products, abundant condiments and whose consumption at the table is accompanied by wine or infusions, always respecting the beliefs of each community.
The Mediterranean diet – whose name derives from the Greek word daily, which means way of life – does not comprise just food, as it is a cultural element that promotes social interaction, verifying that common meals are a cornerstone of customs celebrations and festive events. The Mediterranean diet also gave rise to a considerable body of knowledge, songs, choruses, tales and legends.
Thus, an attitude of respect for the land and biodiversity remains and guarantees the conservation and development of traditional and artisanal activities linked to agriculture and fisheries in many communities in the Mediterranean countries (…). Women play a fundamental role both in transmitting specific practices and knowledge about traditional rituals, gestures and celebrations, and in safeguarding techniques. ”
Products and Producers
Bread, olive oil and wine are the trilogy of Mediterranean food culture, but other products are equally important.
The Mediterranean populations attributed to these foods values of collective survival, therefore sacred, symbolic and aggregators, always present in the practices, rituals and festivities of the communities.
Since antiquity and in various civilizations, the dead were deposited in the food company for Eterna Viagem and funeral banquets were held.
Excessive food was condemned by religion and in Catholicism gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.
Culture and Heritage
The Algarve is an amphitheater exposed to the south, protected by the mountains and influenced by the Mediterranean climate. The municipality of Tavira has a mosaic of cultural landscapes, created by the interaction of man with nature over the last thousand years.
The schistose mountain range, with poor soils and undergrowth, developed successively “unregulated” areas that allowed fields with rainfed crops, cork oaks, holm oaks and some cereals such as wheat and barley, family gardens, livestock and the use of wild resources.
In the peripheral depression through which the Gilão River flows, there are floodplains and irrigated areas, vegetable gardens, orchards dotted with olive groves, almonds, fig trees, carob trees.
Zone of transition with the coast, called barrocal, benefits from underground aquifers, from the mild climate in winter, without frost or low temperatures and more protected from the salinity of the sea. Vegetables, citrus fruits, figs, carob, olives and soft-shelled almonds predominate.
Next to the sea, the city built for many centuries from a Phoenician village located on the genetic hill, descended in the 15th and 16th centuries to the river, followed it, occupying wetlands and both banks to the estuarine area.
On the coast, the lagoon system and the barrier islands of Tavira and Cabanas stand out, integrated in the internationally classified Natural Park of Ria Formosa, a very lively area with tuna and artisanal fishing, shellfish, mollusc and bivalve catching, saliniculture and nurseries . In the vicinity of the sea the vine is planted and some areas of mixed cultures persist.
Cultural landscapes are part of the region’s historical identity. It is essential to UNDERSTAND, PRESERVE AND VALUE its high heritage value, playful and economic potential.
With sedentarization, agriculture and extractive activities, natural spaces were transformed into cultural landscapes. These give us precious historical information about our relationship with the places, in many cases of great beauty, capable of integrating the classified cultural heritage and attracting visitors.
Olive groves, vineyards, mounts and crops are striking images of the Mediterranean landscape.
If there is a town in Algarve that has been doing a great work to promote this type of food on people’s diet and its benefits to health and wellbeing it is Tavira! On your next visit to the region save some time to walk the splendid old streets and why not, try to do it in early September when this annual event takes place. For 4 days you will get a closer look (and maybe buy) to the products and taste food, participate in lectures and seminars. Plus there will be music, dancing, theatre and plenty of activities for the kids.
Well, that’s all for today!
I will bring you soon some recipes from my mum’s cooking delights which include African dishes, northern portuguese, where she comes from and my own ones that i consider a well worth secret to share with you!