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.