BACALHAU, IN THE LITERARY STYLE OF EÇA DE QUEIRÓS*
From the Icy Waters of the North Pole to Portuguese Tables
Oh, codfish! That sea-dwelling creature that emerges from the depths of icy waters like a messiah destined to become the star of Portuguese dishes. Let me tell you, my dear readers, codfish in Portugal is more than food; it's an institution, an icon, a culinary fairy tale that deserves our critical attention and gourmet indulgence.
In my observations of Portuguese customs, I couldn't help but notice that, for the average Portuguese, the array of codfish dishes is as vast as the expanses of the seas from which it originates. Here, we say there are 1001 ways to prepare it. From Codfish with Everything to Lagareiro Codfish, passing through Spiritual Codfish, Braga Codfish, Brás Codfish, Codfish with Cream, Codfish Salad, Codfish with Corn Bread, to name a few... the ways to savor it are endless! Mix it with potatoes, olive oil, eggs, and onions (in their multiple forms and fashions), and life is a feast. Then add some parsley here, some coriander there, some olives, tomatoes, peppers, or a plateful of chickpeas... and that’s it. Ah, and Codfish Rice, Massed Bread or Pasta... All of them are to eat and cry for more, of course.
But make no mistake, my dear readers, the journey into the world of codfish is not for the faint of heart. After all, what typical dish requires us to be true culinary alchemists, transforming the dried and salted fish into something soft and flavorful? It is a gastronomic experience that demands patience, dedication, and a steady flirt with its chef.
This conversation has made me crave Lagareiro Codfish, that delicacy where codfish is roasted in the oven until it reaches a glorious golden hue and is then generously drizzled with olive oil. Ah, olive oil! The golden liquid that flows like a river on our plates and in our veins, making every forkful a dive into the depths of pleasure.
At Christmas, in Portugal, codfish reigns supreme. Codfish, with its tender flakes, is the honored guest who never misses the Christmas supper, a tradition passed down from generation to generation. It presents itself majestically on festive tables in its simplest form: boiled. Accompanied by boiled potatoes, greens, and eggs. And olive oil, of course. Simple. So simple.
But let me be clear, my friends, although codfish is revered in Portugal, it is not without debates and controversies. The battle for the title of the best codfish dish is fierce and enduring. Portuguese families have their secret recipes and preferences, and debates over the best preparation method can make European parliaments seem childish.
After all, codfish is a passion that unites the Portuguese, a celebration of flavor that transcends the table and becomes a part of cultural identity. Codfish is a culinary fairy tale that reminds us that, in Portugal, food is more than nourishment; it is an art form, a national passion, and – always – the best reason to gather family and friends.
With my appetite and admiration for this illustrious fish, I leave you with a toast to “Bacalhau”, the hero of Portuguese dishes, which has challenged our palates for centuries and continues to gift us with renewed experiences and adventures.
*By combining the power of artificial intelligence with the touch of a human hand, this text aims to recreate the literary style of Eça de Queirós, a renowned Portuguese writer from the 19th century. It pays a well-deserved tribute to the king of Portuguese tables, codfish.