Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Domestic Life in Portugal


Portuguese domestic life follows traditional patterns and in many rural areas regional costumes are much in evidence. Discipline of children and courtship follow strict patterns. These factors may result in adjustment problems when Portuguese emigrate to Canada and the United States. The father is the household head, but Portuguese women frequently work side by side with their husbands in agriculture, fishing, or factories. In fact, many work activities are considered family affairs. After the work of shucking corn, heating trees for olives, or picking grapes is completed, a family picnic ending with singing and dancing is more the rule than the exception.

It is typical of Portugal that modern methods are only implemented where traditional ones are no longer feasible. If the old method works, why toss it out? In the fields, ancient agricultural techniques are practiced alongside modern mechanization.

This is true too of the Portuguese kitchen. Since three-quarters of Portugal’s people are engaged in agricultural pursuits, the country home and kitchens dominate the country’s way of life. Self-sufficiency is a matter of great pride. Many types of homemade pork sausages, sausage-like strings of lard, barrels of salted bacon flavored with hay leaf and garlic, and of course a good supply of homemade wines, stores of fruits, vegetables and grains stock the pantries and cool storage areas of the Portuguese home. This is still a source of pride today.

Many communities share a huge cement and stone oven where breads and confections may be baked. Kitchens glow with tiled floors and walls and often tiled cooking areas. Few electrical appliances are used as traditional mortar and pestle, hand coffee-grinders and strong arms do the blending, crushing, chopping, mixing, and beating of kitchen chores.

Southern Portugal reflects many dishes of the Spanish cuisine such as gaspacho, the cold vegetable soup; pudim flan, the sweet caramel custard; and many dishes that are cooked all in one pot by steaming. The cataplana is used especially in the Algarve, the southernmost province of Portugal. Two rounded lids are clamped tightly together, cooking food on the stove top like a type of pressure cooker and giving any food combinations a moist freshness.

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