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Portuguese Food: Influencing Americans, People around the World

2017-09-09

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  • When you ask Americans about European foods, many people talk about their favorite meals from Italy, France, or even Germany.
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  • But food and drink from another European country – Portugal -- is growing in popularity, both in the United States and other areas.
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  • In fact, while Portugal may not have as many famous dishes as its European neighbors, Portuguese tastes have influenced food and restaurants from Europe, to Asia, Africa and the Americas.
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  • Many areas have been touched by Portuguese tastes in some way.
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  • With Portugal’s long colonial history and immigrant population around the world, Portuguese cooking is finding an important place in many homes.
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  • The story of Portugal’s influence on food is tied to its centuries as a colonial power.
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  • Portugal was one of the first European countries to start exploring the world.
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  • At one time, Portugal controlled territory on almost every continent.
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  • Along their travels, Portuguese explorers, sailors, businessmen and clergy left their mark on the cultures and food they encountered.
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  • To understand the effect Portuguese cooking has had, it is important to describe some of the food itself.
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  • There are many different Portuguese foods.
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  • However, Portugal is perhaps most famous for its fish.
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  • With a coastline nearly 1,800 kilometers long, fish and seafood are not hard to find.
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  • Portugal actually has the fourth highest fish consumption per person of any country in the world.
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  • The most common kind of fish in Portuguese cooking is cod.
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  • Portuguese crews have been fishing for cod since the 15th century.
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  • Because this tradition started long before the invention of refrigeration equipment, the cod is almost always dried and salted.
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  • Most fish in Portugal is then served either dried, as is, boiled in water, or roasted over a fire.
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  • Sardines are another popular fish. Other Portuguese dishes use seafood like octopus, squid, crabs, and shrimp.
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  • In the past, many of Portugal’s pastries were made by Catholic religious workers.
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  • The main ingredient for any pastry is egg yolks. One of the most famous tasty treats is called Pastéis de Nata.
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  • They are small, rich creamy tarts.
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  • These baked goods can be found all over Portugal, and also in many of Portugal’s former colonies, like Brazil.
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  • Portugal is famous all over the world for its alcoholic drinks.
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  • Perhaps the most famous wine is a sweet, dark-red Port, made from grapes in northern Portugal.
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  • Another important wine is Madeira.
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  • Madeira was probably the most popular wine in North America from the time the first Europeans arrived, until the middle of the 1800s.
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  • It comes from the islands of Madeira, a popular stopping point for European ships on their way across the Atlantic Ocean.
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  • During the American Revolution against British rule, Britain restricted foreign imports to its American colonies.
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  • Yet the British did permit imports from the islands of Madeira.
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  • General George Washington was known to drink Madeira wine.
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  • He is reported to have celebrated with drinks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and his swearing-in as the first president of the United States.
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  • Pork, beef, and chicken are also all popular in the Portuguese diet.
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  • They are often cooked on a grill.
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  • The meat is often seasoned with spices that the Portuguese collected from their travels around the world.
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  • A popular dish that many Portuguese have at the beginning of a meal is a soup called Caldo Verde.
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  • This is made from potato purée, sliced kale, and cuts of sausage.
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  • While Portuguese food is important by itself, what is most interesting is how it influenced food in other countries.
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  • One example can be found on the other side of the world -- in Japan.
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  • The Portuguese started trading with Japan in 1543.
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  • The two sides continued trading for almost a century.
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  • During that time, a Portuguese fried green bean specialty, called peixinhos da horta, was passed on to the Japanese.
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  • Today in Japan, that kind of cooking is called tempura.
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  • It is used with green beans, shrimp, and other foods.
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  • The Portuguese also left an influence on Goa, in western India, which they controlled from 1510 until 1961.
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  • The Portuguese in Goa cooked a dish using pork and a topping made from wine and garlic.
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  • This dish later become popular with many Indians.
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  • Now called vindaloo, it remains popular in the country today.
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  • Portuguese food has not been as well known in the United States until recently.
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  • That began changing with the rise of the popular fast-food restaurant Nando’s Peri-Peri.
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  • The eatery’s main offering is chicken served with a spicy seasoning that comes from Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony.
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  • The very first Nando’s Peri-Peri opened in South Africa, but the restaurant chain now has eateries all over Africa, Australia, and North America.
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  • The chain also sells the spicy peri-peri sauce, which has become famous.
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  • Portugal is no longer known just for its cooking, but also for its many foods.
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  • It is important to recognize that many of the things you eat today could have already been influenced by the Portuguese many years ago.
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  • I’m Phil Dierking.
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