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:
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»)»
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”.