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!

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a cook during the Napoleonic campaigns by throwing old potato slices into boiling fat, but the text didn't referred any historical document.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”.