This presentation provides an overview of geographical, historical and cultural aspects of the Portugal. This follows discusses on food patterns and food habits among the Portuguese, their typical meals and food etiquette, frequencies of dining and food taboos that do exist. Therapeutic effects of food eaten including wine and home or traditional remedies used that involve both food and herbs are keenly analyzed. Lastly, the major public holidays in Portugal are outlined and their associated meals that are served.
2.0 Geographical overview
Portugal is situated at Southwest Europe; it is one of the westernmost countries in Europe. It borders Atlantic Oceans to the west and south. To the north and east it neighbors Spain. Portugal country covers an area of approximately 92,391 square kilometers. The land surface occupies approximately 91,951 squares kilometers with about ten million people.
Portugal experiences maritime temperate type of climate. Its northern parts are cool and rainy while in the southern parts are warmer and little drier. Generally, it is one of the warmest European countries. The Portugal mainland is divided by river Tagus which is the main river in the country. It has a mountainous terrain to the north of Tagus River and gently rolling plains in the south (Lovel, 2008).
3.0 History and culture
Portuguese is the official language used in the country. Also Mirandese language is used but locally.
Portugal derived its name partly from Roman name ‘Cale’ and the city Porto. The word Cale used to refer the region between river Douro and Minho. Cale actually referred to the early settlers at the mouth of river Douro. The word Cale or ‘Gal’ together with the city Porto formed the county’s name Portugal. In the early times, the land of Portugal was settled by Pre-Celts and Celts.
Portugal managed to gain its independence after several conquests from invading kingdoms and claimed its present border. Later it held several explorations in the world that marked the Age of Discovery. Portuguese’s zeal for exploration was because of their long shoreline that presented a favorable environment of sailing skills, needs for accessing European markets and desire to make more conquests.
By the end of firth century, Portuguese had explored regions as far as coast of Africa establishing many trading stations with various kingdoms. One of the most remarkable explorations is that of Vasco da Gama when he sailed through the Cape Town en route to India in 1498. In 1500 Portugal discovered Brazil and claimed to be its territory. Portuguese conquered several Asian nations of that time and became dominant in commerce around Indian Ocean and Atlantic regions.
In 1st November 1755, Portugal capital city Lisbon was severely hit by earthquake that left thousands dead and part of the city destroyed. Also, in 1807 during the Napoleon war, French troops invaded Portugal for war that was called Peninsular war or French Invasion of Portugal that lasted close to a decade when British and Portuguese formed a coalition to flush out French troops. Portuguese dominance gradually started to decline especially when Brazil showed interest for independence. Brazil was Portugal’s largest colonial territory. By close of 19th Century, Portugal had lost control over South America and sought new territories in Africa. Portuguese Colonial rule in the world came to the end after their last overseas territory Macau gained its independence in 1999.
Portugal was the founding member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which was established by signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949 (Kyler, Brandin and Ethan, 2002).
The culture of the Portuguese traces it root to the time of Roman and Moorish invasion .As it has been found , these invasions did left some cultural elements which that are seen in archeological remains. Basically, Portuguese culture has been influenced the Latin, the Visigoth and the Muslim culture.
According to the Portuguese culture family is considered to be the basic unit in the society. A kinship network tie is so knit such that two or more generations can live in the same house. Even when men and women move to the urban areas they try as much as possible to be in touch with their relatives back at home.
Normally women stay at home while men move out to make for a living. Traditionally, father is the head of the house and the breadwinner and the mother takes care of the family. However, presently the role of man is not highly regarded as to that of women. Portuguese elders are highly respected. Family loyalty prevails more than any other social relationship or even business.
Portuguese have high sense of formality especially when dealing with each other. However, they are traditional and conservative. Their culture is one that respects the hierarchy because both society and business is highly stratified. The conformity to hierarchical relationship is amplified by both the Catholic Church and the family structure. People have high respect of authority to a point that they look to those above them for guidance and decision making. They also regard appearance very much especially in the cities. For this reason, people strive to wear good fabrics and clothes they can afford (http://www.portugal-live.net/UK/essential/culture.html, 2008).
Etiquette and customs are highly held with great care. In the first time contact, first greetings are reserved though polite, which take form of handshake accompanied with direct eye contact plus appropriate greeting of the day. After acquaintance, greeting now proceeds to be more personal where men can greet each other with hugs and handshakes while women can kiss each other on each side of the check starting with the right one. Titles includes honorific titles such as ‘Senhora or senhor’ together with the sir name. Any university degree holder is usually referred to with honorific title with ‘doutour’ or ‘douttooura’ which is the word for doctor, together with or without the surname. It is always wise to use formal case than informal until your friend suggest otherwise.
The etiquette for giving gifts requires that if you are invited for a dinner please carry flowers with you and do not give thirteen flowers as the number is considered unlucky. Red flowers are not given as they are considered to be symbol of revolution. It is cultural to open gifts after they have been received. The majority of Portuguese are Christians belonging to Roman Catholic religion. But there are other groups such as Islam, Protestantism and Judaism.
4.0 Food habits and patterns
Portugal is considered to be one of the southern European countries that have Mediterranean dietary habits. This is type of the diet is a good example of nutritional habits that have evolved in North Atlantic countries. The term Mediterranean diet is not necessarily associated with idea of geographical region as such. This is because for instance Portugal is not in Mediterranean coast and yet it has the most typical Mediterranean dietary tradition among the European nations.
The main characteristics of Mediterranean diet includes, high consumption of fruits and vegetables, widespread consumption of fish, use of olive oil in the diet and tradition deep-frying as a method of cooking. These characteristics are common in different varieties of Mediterranean diet based on the role and importance of nutritional groups they play especially in Mediterranean countries. In this diet, high consumption of vegetable and fruits provide high fiber intake practically pectin which is a soluble fiber. Besides this, plenty of fruits and vegetables provide high contents of beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamin C. Portugal is considered to have high intake of vitamin C in the European countries and the most of it comes from raw food intake.
Portuguese are known to be passionate about their cuisine which is reflected by their nutritious diet. One of striking features of Portuguese food habits is use of wine. Portuguese wine is classic for its taste and quality that make them to be the best wine producers in the world. Because the country is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the south and west, fish is the main component of their diet. Fishes like caldeirada, sardines and cod together with their recipes are the main constitutes of their menu. They also make use of pork, beef, chicken and lamb in their diet. Commonly, these meats are used as add ons with sandwiches. Portuguese are also very well known because of their pastry art. There is wide used of spices such as chillli peppers, cinnamon, vanilla and saffron.
It is a Portuguese habit not often to eat breakfast; instead prefer just a coffee and perhaps a bread roll. Hot meals are always preferred even during the summers (http://www.spain-recipes.com/mediterranean-diet-01.html, n.d).
In Portugal there is diet transition from traditional food pattern characterized by high availability of principal carbohydrates to high consumption of protein foods. This shift in dietary pattern is prominent in urban areas which seem to be influenced by education level and urbanization.
4.1 Typical meals, frequency of dinning and food etiquette
Portuguese breakfast is called pequeno-almaco in Portuguese language. Their breakfast most of times consist of fresh bread, with butter, cheese or fruit preserves together with a strong coffee or milk. Breakfast cereals and sweet pastries are very popular especially when eaten cold and mixed with milk, yoghurt and fruit. But more often they prefer a cup of coffee and at times a bread roll for breakfast.
There are about four typical meals from meat namely: carne de porco a alentejane, leitao assado, bife de porcolde avaca, figa com arroz and feijaoada.Carne de porco a alentejane is a meal that is made up of pork with clams.Leitao assado is a type of meal that consists of roasted sucking pig while that of bife deporcolde avaca has pork or beef steak. Figado com arroz is a meal with liver and rice and for feijoada, it is a been stew with black pudding. There are various meals made of fish. Bacalhau which is a salted cod fish is very famous in the region. Also there are other popular fish dishes such as lulas fritas which is a grilled squid, bacalhau a bras being a cod with eggs and potatoes , arroz de marisco, a seafood rice, pescada which is hake ,caldeirada , fish stew and lastly sardinhas assadas which is grilled sardines.
Soups form part of every meal. The most popular of the soup is caldo verde which is a moderate thin potato puree and thinly chopped collard green and slice of pork sausage (chourico). In drinks, red, white and green wine forms the traditional Portuguese drink. Portuguese have three main meals in a day that is; breakfast, lunch and supper. However, in the course of the day there are numerous cups of black coffee that grace day’s work. They take breakfast early in the morning and have lunch around 1pm to 3pm. As a norm supper is eaten at around 8 pm.
Everyone has to observe dinning etiquette. If one has been invited for diner he or she should not be late for more than fifteen minutes. But in a social gathering or in a party, this doesn’t apply. Dressing code is necessary. Portuguese have no much difference between business and social attire; nevertheless, one should not discus business matters in a social gathering. If by the time you turn up for an invitation you had not carried a flower, it is necessary to sent it the follow day to the hostess.
Table manners are also formal in that once you get inside the dinning room you should remain standing until directed where to sit. Portuguese consider table manners to be Continental. You should hold the fork with left hand and knife with your right hand when eating. At no time should you start eating before you hear an expression from hostess saying ‘bom appettito’. Never rest your elbow on the table. All foods must be eaten using the provided utensils including fruit and cheese. When eating always one should keep napkin to the left of the plate and never put it on the lap and after finishing eating at least leave some food in the plate. To show that you are through one should lay the knife and fork parallel on the plate, tines facing up with handles facing to the right.
In Portugal, culturally there are no food taboos. However, for those who are Catholic religion affiliates they have some religious eating habits just like any other religious Catholic country (Schwabe, 1979)
4.2 Therapeutic uses of food and Home therapies
Mediterranean diet consists of high intake of vegetable that helps to lower risk of colon cancer, hyperchoresterol and aids in management of diabetes. Also there is a liberal intake of vitamin C helps to boost immune system, increase dietary iron bioavaliabity and maintenance of endothelium membranes. Beta-carotene together with vitamin C acts as antioxidants that also reduce risks of cancer. Consumption of vegetable oils particularly from olive oil provides in the diet Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) and Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA) which help to low risks associated with cardiovascular diseases.
Wine have been suggested to have potential therapeutic effects due to the presence of components such as flavonoids and other antioxidants responsible in reducing risks associated with heart diseases. Generally, alcohol has minimal therapeutic effects such as small increments of High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) as well as reduction in blood coagulation. However, it should be note that there is no scientific proof that intake of wine or alcohol can replace conventional measures in cardiovascular management (http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4422, 2008)
The most common traditional used herbs in Portugal include fennel (Foeniciulum vulgare) mint (Mentha spicata), pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), rosemary (Rosmarinus) and wild thyme (Thymus serppyllum). Mint has been used for a long time as herb in Portugal for its properties in treating stomach ache, chest problems and aiding digestion in form of herbal tea. Pennyroyal which a member of mint genus has been traditional used to treat flatulence, gum strengthener, a tumor remedy and a lung cleanser. Rosemary freash or dried leaves has been used frequently in traditional Mediterranean cuisine and as well as herb. It is traditionally used for management of respiratory problems such as colds and cough. Wild Thyme in Portugal has been generally used as herbal tea and also for seasoning food. Fennel is found in temperate regions in Europe and is a perennial herb. Portuguese for a long time have been using its seeds to relax intestine and manage bloating in form of herbal tea.
4.3 Portugal major holidays and dishes
Portugal major holidays includes Liberty Day on every 25th of April, Labor Day on 1st May, Christmas Day on 25th, Epiphany on 6th January and New Year celebration.
The major dishes during Christmas time are rice pudding (arroz doce) and salt cod (bacalhau) with olive oil potatoes, grains and cabbage. It is commonly accompanied by array of rich desserts. Also there are varieties of fried goodies offered as sweets, rabanadas which resembles French toast, rice pudding and sobremesas which are traditional Christmas pastries.
Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates revelation of God in human for in the person of Jesus Christ. Families gather to eat King cake called ‘Bolo- Rie’ which is baked. During New Year celebration a similar but slightly unique cake that consists a candied fruit decorated goody is eaten. It contains two treaties; the prize and Feve bean. Whoever gets the latter is considered responsible to bring a cake next year.
Apart from in these three holidays, no special meals are taken in other holidays such as Labor and Liberty day. However, cod dish which can be prepared up to 365 different cooking ways is the national dish which can be found during these occasions.
Portugal lies along the Atlantic coast of Iberian Pensula south west Europe with a long stretch of coastline. Their discoveries, trade and colonialization did made them to have enriched culture. Portuguese great explorations in the world were partly due to their long time developed sailing skill coupled with the need for accessing European markets and desire to make more conquests.
Portuguese culture is conservative which is characterized with strong family ties, conformity to hierarchical relationship and strict etiquette and customs that are highly held with great care. Their food habits consist of Mediterranean dietary habits that exhibit high level of therapeutic effects particularly in management of cardiovascular diseases. The main characteristics of Mediterranean diet includes, high consumption of fruits and vegetables, widespread consumption of fish, use of olive oil in the diet and tradition deep-frying as a method of cooking. Presently, shift in the diet pattern seem to be influenced by urbanization and level of education.
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