New book ‘Global history of Portuguese food’ presented today

Includes collaboration by 59 Portuguese and 10 foreigners

The pioneering role of Portugal and Spain in the use of new food products and the way they promoted food exchange between continents is highlighted in the book “Global History of Portuguese Food”.

The work, under the direction of José Eduardo Franco and coordinated by Isabel Drumond Braga, goes from the formation of Portugal “to the present day”, including, for example, a chapter in which the role of Portugal’s food safety authority (ASAE) is discussed.

The work presents 101 texts and counts on the collaboration of 69 authors – 59 Portuguese and 10 foreigners.

Food “is part of everyone’s daily life”, it is a “human right, (the) satisfaction of a physiological need, a source of prejudices, prohibitions and pleasure, a reason for exclusion and a factor of differentiation”, but also “an object of creativity and a political weapon“, writes Isabel Braga.

The book highlights the role of Portuguese and Castilians who found new products in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and brought them to Europe and other places. This exchange of food has never excluded rejections and adaptations.

From bread, to which the first chapter is dedicated, to cheese and honey, the book also covers the revolution brought by spices, the role of Portuguese olive oil in the world, and ‘convent recipes’ (largely sweets/ cakes), not forgetting the presence of Muslim and Jewish traditions in the national diet, the cultivation of tea in the Azores and wine, namely from the Douro, Portugal’s oldest wine-producing region.

Historian Isabel Drumond Braga explains that, as in other areas of knowledge, “in the history of food, various themes cover periods and places that cannot be divided into the traditional divisions of the medieval, modern and contemporary eras”.

The authors present “updated analytical syntheses, seeking to show the encounters, exchanges, adaptations and transformations”, proposing an understanding of the “impact of general phenomena on more circumscribed areas”.

In addition to products, such as the “omnipresent and almost invisible water”, the work addresses practices, such as the transition from private slaughter (of cattle) to the municipal slaughterhouse”, smoking, an ancestral technique of conservation, “food and diplomacy”, Portuguese food in Brazil, the expansion of Portuguese salt in Europe, the “feeding of the hungry”, the feeding of the sick, the feeding of students, the scenic aspect of the table.

The work dedicates texts to PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) certification, “the fight against waste”, particularly the Fruta Feia (Ugly Fruit) campaign, Portuguese food in Italy, the Mediterranean diet, “Portuguese sweets and savouries in the East” and even “a new concept of meal:  ‘hamburgers’.

“Global History of Portuguese Food” is being presented this evening at 6.30pm at El Corte Inglés, in Lisbon.