Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to roam around and learn a bit more about Portuguese History. To find your interests, please, have a look at the right side of the page, where you can find all the posts arrenged into labels, such as "Society", "Politics", etc. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Since it is the season to be talking about this, I thought of doing a post on traditional Portuguese season cookery that came from the 28th century and even further back. And of course, adding some recipes. Perhaps you'll get inspired and do them yourself.
The post will consist of 3 courses, which ingredients I have talked earlier in other posts and blogs of mine: fish, meat and desert. Enjoy!

As I've explained on my blog about food in the Middle Ages (http://ataleiga.blogspot.pt/p/carnemeat.html), fish was an important food source in Christian Europe, eaten during the holy days, like lent and others. On the other hand, Portugal having the Atlantic ocean as it's natural border and being influenced by Moorish navigation skill, had a more developed fishing activity, bringing types of fish known to live in deeper waters, further away from mainland, as thus, destroying the idea that fishing in the Middle Ages was only done along the coastal area.
One of the most fished species was cod. It seems that Portuguese fishers got licenses from England to fish in its seas during the 14th century. It then would be kept in salt and then sold as stock fish. Don't forget that to eat this salted fish, you need to put it in water for 2-3 days changing the water 3 or 4 times a day.
So, it's only natural that eating cod became a Christmas tradition.
During the 18th century in Portugal, fish became a cheap food source and cod was so inexpensive that it was a very common dish in the lower classes.
Today there are inumerous cod recipes; some experts say even more then a thousand, being new recipes invented almost every day.
The most traditional way to cook cod for Christmas is boiling it, but since it is a religious holliday, I thought of giving you the recipe for “Spiritual Cod” (Bacalhau espiritual). It's in Portuguese, but I think the images are self explanatory.

Here's the list of the ingredients:
  • 700g of desalted cod
  • 400g of grated carrots
  • 2 cut and sliced onions
  • 2 chopped garlic
  • 125ml of olive oil
  • 4 old breads
  • milk
  • 60g of margarine/butter
  • 60g of flour
  • 250ml of milk
  • 275 of water where the cod cooked
  • 200ml of creme
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg

On a previous post on this blog, this years Easter if I'm not mistaken, I've wrote something about Cocoa, turkeys and Pineapples and how they were introduced, amongst other American produce, in Europe’s diet.
Remembering the importance of Turkey seems to be very according to these festivities. After the maritime discoveries of the Americas, this animal quickly became famous in the kitchens of nobility across Europe, while in Christian North America it, later, became part of a new festivity called Thanks giving.
«... turkey meat always got a luxury representation at Portuguese regal tables during the 17th and 18th centuries. (…) The 1st document found with the usage of turkeys in Portuguese food habits is a recipes book called “A Arte de Cozinha” (The Art of Cookery) by Domingos Rodrigues in 1680 which had 24 turkey recipes.
In 1787, Beckford, wrote about a luncheon served to the Portuguese queen D. Maria the 1st and to her family that was made out of stuffed turkeys.
This was the time when turkey meat became part of the Christmas traditions in Europe.»
In some Portuguese regional traditions it is the turkey that is glorified as the main Christmas meal, just like cod is in others.
And here's a marvelous image of a cooked X-mas turkey, with pineapples, Brazilian recipe, which is in agreement with what was said previoulsy. Not the recipe though; I think you probably have one around the house.

According to a previous post about Portuguese food habits, this country is known for its convent made sweets. These sweets/deserts were made out of 2 important ingredients: egg yolks and sugar. The 1st was the leftover from the starching methods of the time and the 2nd one came to Europe during the maritime discoveries. Made in convents by nuns and monks since the 15th century, the maritime discoveries and the Portuguese sugar monopoly made it possible for this old time cooking tradition to be developed even further.
I don't want to talk to much on this cookery tradition here, since I want to add all the information on a future post.
Here's an interesting site I've found, in English:
Papos de anjo (Angel's maw/goitre), Toucinho do céu (Heaven's bacon), Barrigas de freira (Nun's bellies) where very common convent recipes in the 18th century and, funny enough, William Beckford who dedicated an entire book on his opinions on Portuguese food, saw no critic in these convent sweets!
Here's a recipe for the Papos de Anjo, which I made myself and are very easy to do. Just a warning: it is VERY sweet and should be eaten in moderation.

  • 10 egg yolk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 table spoon of cornstarch
  • 500g of sugar
  • 500ml of water
  • 7,5g of vanilla sugar
  • 30ml of rum
  • 2 lemon peels
  • 1 cinnamon stick

And don't forget to finish your meal in a very traditional Portuguese fashion, since the 18th century: to have a coffee at the end of the meal.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Health, Hygiene and Diet in the 18th century

Being already in the X-mas season, I thought that a post about health and diet would be very appropriate and being this a blog about life in Portugal at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, I expect it shows some of the main reasoning on the subject back then.
I hope you'll enjoy it!

Taken from the book “A Mesa dos Reis de Portugal” (The Table of the Portuguese Kings), chapter “Dieta e gosto na mesa régia” (Diet and taste at the regal table) pages 350 to 380, by David Felismino.

Although many of the health treaties written in Portugal at the time where in agreement with the scientific advances in Europe, it didn't meant that it had reached mainstream thinking of the country. In fact, William Beckford wrote in his diary about his travels in Portugal, in 1787, that Portuguese food was heavy, greasy and to much for one person to handle (I hope to be able to find a copy of this book in the National Library and to write a post about it in the future). Quite the opposite of the “food revolution” that had happened in remaining Europe, mainly France and England, which preferred lighter meals and lesser courses. The only real change in Portuguese diet came with the maritime discoveries that brought so many new produce and made was today we call as traditional, although not always for the better in the 18th century health science thought.

"Tratado das Drogas e Medicamentos das Indias Ocidentais" (Treaty fo the Drugs and Medication of the West Indies) by the Portuguese naturalist Cristovão da Costa, 1619, where he talks about the medicinal properties of different spices and plants, such as nutmeg and cinamon.

Back to the beginning. According to the book, early modern age diet was based on philosophical and metaphysical conceptions, that saw the human body as part of one of the elements of the Universe and therefore food was there to correct it's natural “flow”, or in that time's language, humors. It was a line of thought that came directly from the classics and that persisted equally before that during the Middle Ages.
The body was seen as having in it the representations of the 4 primary elements (water, fire, wind and earth) and the humors where a secondary element in result of the their combination. So, Air was represented by the heart, Fire was the liver, Earth was the spleen and Water was the brain, (putting it very simplistically). So balance between all of these was necessary and they way to achieve that was through food and hygiene.
In the Portuguese case, there was a contradiction between a highly structured society and what scientist said what healthy was; a contradiction between tradition and modernity, as said before. And this was even more so at the regal table, where rules of representation and ostentation had to be followed but also the health and longevity of the monarch. And even so, and perhaps because of it, in Portugal the health treaties where one of the most published fields, taking advantage of our Greek, Latin, Moorish and Hebrew past and influences. The 1st ever known treaty to have been written by a Portuguese author was Liber de Conservanda Iuventus by Arnaldo De Vilanova, circa 1242 – 1311, without forgetting the innumerous translations of classical and foreign authors.

"Apontamentos para a Educação de hum Menino Nobre" (Notes on the Education of a Noble boy), by Martinho de Mendonça Pina e Proença, 1784, original in the National Library in Lisbon.

But even though our different cultural influences, it was the main classical thought that reigned in Portuguese Universities and, therefore, it was a barrier to anything different according to the author. Don't forget a previous post I've published on this blog about Portuguese society and how church and moral values had this rigid and stiff characteristic that made it impossible for change in this country. And when there's such a impermeability towards new ideas, tradition has a higher importance. If I think about it, food and diet is still a traditional aspect in Portugal, where people still rely their own happiness on what grandmother cooks. There's nothing like returning back from a trip , vacation or business, and eating “normal food” again. Celebrations are about food; a wedding isn't a good one if you don't burst out of your seams. And it was only in the 1990's that the potato and rice served together on the same dish completely disappeared.
In rest of Europe, the 18th century brought a big change in hygiene and diet, transferring all the intellectual writing into the public sphere. Things like medicine, conservation and storage of food, water quality, etc were now politically and socially valid. Therefore, moderation was one of the 1st rules in the harmony of the humors, written above, followed by food conjugation (not only how certain produce worked better with others, but also variety). A distinction between produce that took shorter time to cook, food easy on the digestion, ingestion of vegetables and fruits where new considerations that became the basis of modern medicine and diet, such as more and smaller meals a day and avoiding to many sweets.
Nothing seen at the, not only king's table, but also at any ceremonial table, whether it was the receiving the common guest to the religious celebrations through out the year, where ostentation of food was so big that it became a theologist's concern of gluttony.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


 Pommes Frites

The sweet potato as drawn by John Gerard in his book "Generall Historie of Plants", 1597. Although an image from a sweet potato, I have to say, they are also very good fried.

As I said on the previous post called Quick Research, from time to time I do a quick on-line research on small questions that I need a quick fix to. And so therefore, I'll be posting them too, just in case someone out there is interested.
Today's question is about something I've read some time ago, about pommes frites (french fries for you Anglo speaking people) that they were invented by a cook during the Napoleonic campaigns by throwing old potato slices into boiling fat, but the text didn't referred any historical document. It doesn't make sense when then I continue to read about more info on the subject as I posted below.
Anyway, sounds interesting enough to have a look at! And I think it goes nicely with Beef Wellington...
Firstly, the word comes from the French and means “fried potatoes”, being pommes short for pomme de terre (potatos) and not just pommes as in apples. The English word could have come from an American naming by soldiers who came to Europe during 2nd World War.
According to the World Wide Web there is a discussion between France and Belgium (isn't it ever?) about the origins of the fries.
A Belgium historian claims that they were made in the Spanish Netherlands (today Belgium) in the 17th century by poor people who would cut them in fish shapes and fried them. The problem is that this historian never presented the document he used to make this claim and therefore it is considered invalid.
According to other historians potatoes only arrived there in after 1735.
French, on the other hand, say that it was a culinary invention during the French Revolution. They became immensely popular and were sold in push-cart along the Parisian streets. We shouldn't forget that it took the potato a while to become popular, after it was “discovered” by the Spaniards in the 16th century, and after they did (with the help of the 18th century French Crown), cooks would come up with new ways of cooking this fashionable new produce.
What is interesting is that it isn't the 1st time I come across the use of “potatos” before they came to Europe form South America. I remember seeing a British documentary on a potato-looking root used during the Roman time and the Middle Ages and that then became extinct from the European flora. Could it have been that what the 17th century document talked about? I don't know; I'm not a historian.
Well, there you go. Come to the conclusions you want, because the only facts we know is that pommes frites come from Europe and they taste good!

Some I did the other day.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


After having seen the movie “Lines of Wellington” where there is scene where Wellington explains to Henri L'Evêque how to cook a “beef wellington, I decided for this post to play a bit with the name “beef”, since it reminded me of another thing.
On one side, since it is a blog about the Portugal during the Napoleonic Invasions, we have “Beef Wellington” and on the other an explanation of the Portuguese word “bife”.

As for the 1st one, I think the explanation of Wikipedia says it all. I apologize for copying a Wikipedia quote, but as I said, it was very explanatory:

«The origin of the name is unclear. Some theories suggest beef Wellington is named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington; other theories go a step further and suggest this was due to his love of a dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Madeira wine, and pâté cooked in pastry, but with a noted lack of evidence to support this. In addition to the dearth of evidence attaching this dish to the famous Duke, the earliest recorded recipe to bear this name appeared in a 1966 cookbook. Other accounts simply credit the name to a patriotic chef wanting to give an English name to a variation on the French filet de bœuf en croûte during the Napoleonic Wars. Still another theory is the dish is not named after the Duke himself, but rather the finished filet was thought to resemble one of the brown shiny military boots which were named after him.» (Wikipedia, Beef Wellington)

Even though it is unclear of the relation between the recipe and Wellington itself, I couldn't it just go by. And for those of you who want to learn the recipe, here's a link to a video:

And now for the 2nd explanation. According to the Portuguese on-line dictionary Infopedia, “bife” means:

Nome masculino
1.qualquer fatia de carne (de vaca, porco, peru, atum, etc.)
2. CULINÁRIA; essa fatia de carne, grelhada ou frita, que serve de alimento depois de temperada
3.coloquial; corte na pele, feito por distração ou por acidente
4.antiquado, pejorativo; indivíduo de nacionalidade inglesa ou norte americana ou de língua inglesa
(do inglês beef; «carne de vaca»)»

masculine name
1. any slice of meat (beef, pork, turkey, tuna, etc)
2.CULINARY; that slice of meat, grilled or fried, that serves as nourishment after seasoned
3. colloquial; skin cut, made by distraction or accident
4.old-fashioned, pejorative; individual of English nationality or north American or of English language
(from the English beef; “cow meat”)»

A Bife in Portugal means a steak (a slice of meat). Not a thick cut piece, but a thin one. That's how our steaks are and that would be the usual usage of the term. As you can see, it is linked to “Beef wellington” since it is all meat.
But what I really wanted to write about is the slang form of the word, the way to describe an English nationality or speaking person. On the on-line dictionary it is described as an old fashion pejorative name, but it is still used today to refer to the English football fans (soccer for you Americans).
An explanation to why this name is that it perhaps has a link to the English “Beefeater” (The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London). Why? Who knows...
But if there's one thing I can really do is well imagine that, during the French Invasions, the Portuguese referring to the British soldiers like “Bifes”.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


In 1808 the Portuguese king Manuel the 2nd decided that a monument commemorating the 1st centenary of all of those national anonymous heroes of the Peninsula War that fought the French should between the years of 1807 and 1814 to be placed in Lisbon in the Praça Mouzinho de Albuquerque, today known as the Entrecampos Roundabout.

In the meanwhile the crown fell and the 1st Republic came to power and during that 1st period, political and civil instability and the 1st World War didn't allow the project of the monument to be continued.
It was only in 1933, during the Military dictatorship, before the “Estado Novo” period (the 45 years dictatorship), that the project was finally concluded.

Done by the brothers Francisco de Oliveira Ferreira and José Oliveira Ferreira, inaugurated by our President, General Carmona, it is one of many homages one can find across the country regarding that period, specially the one in Porto which has a lion crushing an eagle with his weight.
As you can see, it has several elements located on it's 4 sides. Unfortunately, although I found a website that had the different elements explained, I cannot explain all the symbolism of this monument. But here goes what I could find:

Monument of the People and Heroes of the Peninsula War, in Lisbon.
Pictures taken by me.

- Civilians, clerics and soldiers standing next to the tomb of the Portuguese Poet Luis de Camões;
- French soldiers pulling a cannon;
- A lion clenching his claws;
- A young woman kneeling at a man's feet, what it seem to be looking for protection;
- Around it are the12 shields representing the 12 locations involved in the war.
- On top the female figure representing our Nation and beside her soldiers with their weapons aiming the Napoleonic eagle.

For more info and pictures, please take a look at the following link:

Monument to the Heroes of the Peninsula War, in Porto. Picture taken from Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nicola & Bocage

The coffe house Nicola's front. Picture from a business card I was given, after being denied to take photos.

The coffee house Nicola was one of the emblematic places of Lisbon, where intellectuals and noticeable people would meet in the 18th century. It opened according to that period fashion of places where you could drink and enjoy those new world beverages like chocolate, tea and, of course, coffee.
This particular establishment, Nicola, was was situated in the new built Lisbon plaza D. Pedro IV, in Rocio, after the earthquake and was given it's name after the Italian who founded the coffee house - Nicola Breteiro – in July 1794.

The Dom Pedro IV plaza in Lisbon. Painting by Charles Legrand, circa 1850.

To understand the importance of such places during this time-period, besides the beverages, I can compare them to today's internet and TV: it was where one could get the latest news and the most intellectual opinions. They were the most fashionable places to be... or to avoid.
The Nicola had the nickname of “Academia” exactly because of the presence of the Portuguese (uncensored) intellectual world.
It was forced to close in 1838 because of constant problems with the law, fight breaks that gave it a bad reputation.
In 1929 it re-opened and got it's Art Deco looks.


Painting of Manuel Maria de Barbosa du Bocage, dedicated to António Araújo de Azevedo, Secretary of State, Foreign Affairs and War between 1804 and 1808.

Bocage (Manuela Maria de Brabrosa l'Hedois du Bocage) was a Portuguese poet who lived and wrote between 1765 and 1805.
What does he got to do with the coffee house Nicola? He used to spend most of his time there.
Inside of the coffee house is a painting by Fernado dos Santos depicting Bocage being aproached by the police outside of the “Nicola”and his answer to the police's questioning (who he was, where he came from and where he was going):

«Eu sou Bocage
Venho do Nicola
Vou p’ro outro mundo
Se dispara a pistola»
(I am Bocage, I come from the Nicola, going to the other world if you shoot that pistol)

Bocage being approached by the police. Painting by Fernando dos Santos (20th century) hanging inside of the Nicola.

His father, José Luis Soares de Barbosa, a Portuguese judge, arrested for not diverting money, and his mother, D. Mariana Joaquina Xavier l'Hedois Lustoff du Bocage, of French origins French, 2nd niece of the famous French poetess Anne Marie le Page du Bocage.
Much of his life is unknown but his life as a well established poet is quite the opposite.
One thing that I find curious is the fact that he has his mother's last name, instead of hos father's. Perhaps because his mother has noble origins? Did she had noble origins? The title in her name (D. = Dona) does make us think so... Couldn't find much on her though...
He was known to be a libertarian, a free spirit, writing satires of people who belonged to the establishment, criticising the backward mentality of this country, a.so.
He got on the censorship’s radar (Superintendent of the Police, Pina Manique) immediately, because of his erotic poems and also for some of his writings complementing the French revolution and Napoleon. But he wrote some texts defending the portuguese population against the French invador.
He got arrested for it, in 1797 and stayed in the Inquisitional prisons (the holy Inquisition was still in vigour in Portugal; it lasted almost 300 years in total) almost a year, being then moved to a hospice and a convent where he only was freed at December 31st 1798. He was a changed man, dedicating his life to translating French and Latin and writing some simpler poems.
He died because of an aneurysm at the young age of 40.
On a last note, the poet Bocage was honoured by being represented on the former 100 escudos bill.

A 100 escudos bill, from the 1980's (before the Euro) depicting the poet Bocage.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


This is a post that I had as a page at the side of this blog but I decided to give it more evidence since I came across, recently to some more information about it. It's not a lot and if I get some more, you already know the answer: I'll let you know.
The following monument/memorial stone sits like a landmark at the side of the coastal road that goes form Cascais to Lisbon (a.k.a. Marginal or National Road numb. 6) top honor the death of a British sailor, it seems the only one that died during the skirmishes between the British forces, allied to Portugal, and the French invading forces in 1808, when the “Brits” arrived with their ships and entered Lisbon's harbor against the French troops that had already settled in since November 1807 (1st French invasion).

Memorial of Conway Shiply ESO. Photo  taken by me. (And you can see Honey and Pepper waiting patiently)



The event happened where today is Santos, a parish or 2 before the city of Lisbon and enabled the wining forces to move into 2 directions: one into the city of Lisbon and the other one towards the shoal line of the River Tagus and all the fortresses alongside it, regaining it from the occupying French.
The British captain died and his body fell into the river waters, being washed up at a beach in Paço de Arcos. This beach (which today is known as the fishermen's beach of Paço de Arcos) then became famous for being the Beach of the dead Englishman. Unfortunately I don't know it's name before that. In conclusion, this beach had at least 3 names! And this is how it looked like in a map of (…). The fortress and the walls don't exist anymore today.

 Map of Paço de Arcos from 1848, of the Portuguese Geographic Instiute, given during a visit to the hsitoric sites of this town in 2012. You can see at the bottom left the Fort of S. Pedro at the walls that protected the beach and the maritime entrance of the town of Paço de Arcos.

This memorial stone was ordered, I believe so, by the British government (I'm not sure of it's date) and today sits a bit further away from the place where the body of the Captain was found.

 "Praia do Inglês Morto" Beach of the dead Englishman. Very poor photo taken by me from the rooftop of a restaurant in Paço de Arcos. The wall that separates the beach from the river isn't the original one. This one would be turned the other way around, as you can compare to the map above, and therefore, the sand would aslo be positioned differently.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Lines of Wellington - the movie

This post is a bit of an advertisement but it's necessary to refer it, not only because it's home made but also because of it's quality and multi-sided view of the movie director. I'm speaking about the most recent Portuguese movie about the French Invasions (the 3rd and last one) – The Lines of Wellington.

 Movie poster of the "Lines of Wellington" to be shown in October 2012. With John Malkovish as General Wellington and Melvil Poupaud as Marchal Masséna.

It shows, of course, the military aspect, one one hand, and one the other how the French invasions affected the general population, without saying the wonderful work they've done with the costuming.
The link I've posted is the trailer shown in the Venice Movie awards and it has English subtitles.


I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Napoleon's Veterans

Here's a video of real pictures from Napoleon's veterans, seen here in old age, taken between 1850 and 1870 in their actual uniforms.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


For this 2nd monthly post I had something completely different in mind but I'll post it some other time. On the other hand, I also wanted to post one about bottle gourds, after I saw something about that on the Woodsrunner's diary blog and. In the meanwhile, I went to visit the Museum of Oriental art in Lisbon (about what the Portuguese brought back from that part of the world in the 16th to the 18th century) and I saw this gorgeous painting of a Portuguese princess that introduced tea into British life. So, this post will be a quick reference about those two issues.


The bottle gourd is a dried calabash used to store many different things, mostly water, since it keep it clear and cool for a long period of time. The plant is from the same vegetable family as the pumpkin or the cucumber and is also used in cooking and has been used since earlier then the Roman period.
The word calabash come from the Arab and has translated into the Iberian word Cabaça (in Portuguese) or Calabaza (in Spanish).
There are many geographical variations to this plant – like the African calabash or the use they give it in Brazil to make a birimbau – but mostly, in western history, are more familiar with the image of the Santiago of Compostela pilgrims or Iberian peasantry up to the mids of the 20th century.

Calabash beig harvested during the Middle Ages, Tacuinum Sanitatis, 1385.

Painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1730, depicting an 18th century pilgrim of St. James with a bottle gourd.

In Portugal, the common knowledge says that it takes up to 2 years for this “pumpkin” to dry and it would be dine so by storing them on top of the houses' roofs to expose them to the sun. Even after dried and used as bottles one shouldn't let them get damp or else it would ruin it's storage purpose. Know, what I don't know is how it gets from the vegetable state to the dried and hollow without rotting.... Beats me!

My bottle gourd hanging in a closed and sunny balcony, with room for cat, dogs and a urban vegetable patch! Picture taken by me.

And if you want to have some extra fun, here's a calabash jam recipe (same used for a common pumpkin jam):

Use a ripe calabash, peel it and remove the seeds.
Cut into little cubes and leave them for a few minutes on a sheet of fabric or kitchen paper to remove a bit of their moisture.
Store the cubes over night covered in sugar in the same amount as the calabash (+ 1/5th of it's weight).
The next day, you can mush or peel into strings the calabash that has rested over night before you take it onto the fire.
Let it cook in a pot in a medium heat with the sugar until desired thickness (it takes about 1 hour) and Bon Apétit!

And onto our next and last subject: tea!
What is the 1st thing you think about when it comes to tea? England? China? India? Any particular brand or flavor?
Yes! That's exactly what I mean: Portugal! It's the most logical and historical accurate assumption to make when speaking about a tea drinking Europe. Here's why:
1st, for all what was exotic and new in Europe, it were the Portuguese that brought it over, followed by the Spaniards, with the maritime discoveries. It's a given fact that everyone should always have in mind. Only a couple of centuries later did the British and the Dutch created a highly successful commercial development in these extra-European regions. Before the Brits moved into Africa and India, it had already belonged to us. Even Australia and New Zealand saw their 1st white man as being Portuguese.
So, it isn't wrong to assume that in Portugal (and Spain) people were exposed to new ideas, people, habits and food sooner then the remaining countries.
Secondly, and this is where I wanted to go, a Portuguese princess:

Dona Catarina de Bragança, Queen consorte of King Charles the 2nd of England. Picture taken by me, Museu do Oriente.

D. Catarina de Bragança, daughter of the Portuguese King Dom João IV, married to the English King Charles the II, in the early 18th century. She wasn't declared Queen or very much loved by the English people because of her Catholic background but there were many things she left behind after she returned to Portugal after the Kings' death. One of those things were the fashionable drinking of tea, while others were the use of cutlery (according t medieval costume, fingers and a knife were still used), smoking tobacco and orange jelly . It is also said that she had an affair with the Earl of Sandwich and he used to make little buttered pieces of bread covered in vegetables, cheeses and cold meats for her. If this is true, I don't know, but it's all looks like a bit of to much romanticism to me.
Now, you might dispute my comment of this Portuguese princess introducing tea in England. Please remember, I haven't' said such a thing! What I said is that she made it fashionable to drink. Tea was already known and sold in England. The difference is that D. Catarina de Bragança introduced her personal tea drinking habit into the English court. It was the Duchess of Bedford that then made it into the 5 o'clock tea.
So, this should be your reference when you think of tea.

Paining by William Hogarth, The Tête-a-tête, scene from the "Marriage a-la-mode", 1743/45. It shows in a humorisitc way this new fashion called tea for 2, where a couple would sit around a small table drinking tea. From here tea sets for 2 are developed.

Another curious fact is that this princess is the one behind the name of the American county Queens. New York was called New Amsterdam and when the British settled in they called the former dutch territory Queens and founded a new borough in 1640. Something that I like to call an interesting Atlantic Triangle.


I hope you enjoyed this quick research of mine. And here's a completely wild idea, why not eat a calabash jam covered slice of bread next time you have your tea?


P.S.: And to answer an old question running in my head about why in most countries it's called tea or something similar sounding and in Portugal “chá”, I'm glad to say I finally researched it. It seems that words like tea, tee, , a.so. come from the Malayan word for this beverage, while chá comes form the Cantonese and Mandarin referring to picking the plant or using it with a spoon. (added Sept.4th 2012)

Sunday, August 5, 2012


- Bugio -

This post will start a topic very near to my heart when it comes to discussing military strategy during the French Invasions: The defensive line, a maritime one, of the river Tagus, which is to say of the shoal line of Oeiras. Everybody has heard of the defensive line of Torres Vedras and how great it is, which I don't disagree with. Yes, it was planned by Arthur Wellesley and built from scratch, with the only purpose to keep of the French but my predicaments are somewhat different: 1st, I was born and raised in Oeiras; secondly, Torres Vedras' defensive line was the last defensive line against the French, while the one from Oeiras was the primary one in military strategy; this defensive line, made out of seaside fortresses and a fortress/lighthouse built in the middle of the river, existed since the 16th century and it was the one that was involved in the 1st French Invasion of 1807.
So, as you can see, I have plenty of reasons to talk about it and today we shall start with the fortress of São Lourenço da Cabeça Seca, a.k.a. Bugio (the name of the lighthouse).
I will make an exception by starting this topic, obviously, since you know that this blog isn't about the military history of Portugal during this time-period. And the reason why I'm doing it now is that yesterday I had the pleasure of being part of a guided tour to this fortress at the entrance of the city of Lisbon!

The view of the fortres and the lighthouse as we were arriving by boat. Picture taken by me.

As a historical background, one has to explain the reasons that took Portuguese Monarchs to start such an endeavor to built a fortress in the middle of the river. At it's place, where the fortress and lighthouse are standing on today, was always a little island of sand and rocks, also called “cabeça seca” in portuguese (dry head), and it always was part of the imaginary of military strategists, monarchs, engineers to use it for the purpose we know today.
During the 16th century, growing closer to the war for the Portuguese Crown with the Spaniards such idea really went forward. So we had the fortresses on each side of the river that controlled the entrance of the ships, like the fortress of São Julião da Barra (of which I shall talk about later on another post linked to this subject) and the ones on the other side of the river, like in Almada. And therefore another fortress that could interact between all of thos would be an excelent strategic idea. 

 The view of the fortress of S. Julião da Barra from the Bugio. Picture taken by me.
During the Filipine Dynasty, when Portugal and Spain shared the same king for succession reasons, the Italian monk, also an engineer, Giovanni Vicenzo Casale, planned to built this fortress. It took almost a century to be done, since it was only possible to do so during half of the year, while during Winter all that had already been built would be destroyed by the ocean.
The 1st construction was made out of wood, later being slowly replaced by stone, only to be finished after the Portuguese got their crown back in mids of the 17th century. It was during this time that the fortress also became officially a lighthouse (probably before, since it would be necessary to show the fortresses' position at night and during fog).
One of the curiosities of this project was that it was always planned to be of a round architecture, instead of the star-shaped fortresses known from that time. The logic was, ans still is, to have a clearer view of the surroundings and access from all sides alike it enemy stricked, but when it comes to military strategy it fails, since the use of cannons alongside with the seaside fortresses is practically impossible.
But there it is, a magnificent piece of military engineering and architecture, only matched by another similar construction in Brazil. One of the kind! A fortress blocking the passage of ships, together with other fortresses and with the extreme natural conditions of the water currents of the Tagus river, like hidden sand banks, rocks, underwater currents, difficult and unpredictable low and high tides, etc.
Now, you ask, what is it's relation to the French Invasions? The answer: everything and nothing! But nevertheless, a beautiful piece of history.
The French occupied it, like the rest of the country including the fortress of São Julião da Barra, in 1807, according to the peaceful surrender signed between Napoleon and the Portuguese king the Prince-Regent Dom João the 6th, while the British allies started the maritime blockade in 1808. So we have the Brits at sea, later at the fortress of São Julião and the French who remained in Bugio.

 "Lookouts" built around the top of the fortress. Picture atken by me.

 View of the Atlantic ocean from inside of these "lookouts". Picture taken by me.

It was completely covered with trees, branches and shrubbery to keep the scraps of the stonework away from injury when a cannon ball would strike.
According to Carlos Pereira Callixto, author of the book “Fortificações Marítimas do Concelho de Oeiras” (Maritime fortifications of Oeiras), in 1802 it had 26 cannons and in December 1807 was taken by Junot's soldiers. In march the year after the British Naval force strikes with cannon fire without being able to overtake this fortress (something that only happened in September the same year).
So, as you can see, even without having fired once, it was obvious to everyone the importance of it's strategic placement.
Today, it still remains where it was built, being “attacked” daily by the ocean but there's not one person living near the river and it's surroundings that would ever think of this historical land mark to ever disappear.
Unfortunately it has lost most of it's historical interior, but the chapel of São Lourenço still remains, such as the soldiers' wards and the olive oil warehouse (to keep the lighthouse in a time before electricity).

 Soldiers' wards. Picture taken by me.

 The entrance of the chapel of S. Lourenço. Picture taken by me.

 The interior of the chapel of S. Lourenço. Picture taken by me.