Today is Portugal Day (Dia de Portugal, de Camões o das Comunidades Portuguesas), Portugal’s National Day celebrated annually. Although officially observed only in Portugal, Portuguese citizens and emigrants throughout the world celebrate this holiday. The date commemorates the death of national literary icon Luís de Camões on 10th June 1580. Camões wrote Os Lusíadas (usually translated as The Lusiads), Portugal’s national epic poem celebrating Portuguese history and achievements. The poem focuses mainly on the 15th-century Portuguese explorations, which brought fame and fortune to the country. The poem, considered one of the finest and most important works in Portuguese literature, became a symbol for the great feats of the Portuguese Empire.
Camões was an adventurer who lost one eye fighting in Ceuta, wrote his epic while traveling, and survived a shipwreck in Cochinchina (a region of present-day Vietnam). According to popular folklore, Camões saved his epic poem by swimming with one arm while keeping the other arm above water. Since his date of birth is unknown, his date of death is celebrated as Portugal’s National Day.
Although Camões became a symbol for Portugal nationalism on his own, his date of death coincided with the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580 that eventually resulted in Philip II of Spain claiming the Portuguese throne, thus cementing the date as symbolic of Portuguese nationalism. Portugal was subsequently ruled by three generations of Spanish kings during the Iberian Union (1580–1640). On 1st December 1640, the country regained its independence once again by expelling the Spanish during the Portuguese Restoration War and making John of Bragança, king John IV of Portugal.
During the authoritarian Estado Novo regime in the 20th century, Camões was used as a symbol for the Portuguese nation. In 1944, at the dedication ceremony of the National Stadium in Oeiras (near Lisbon), Prime Minister of Portugal, António de Oliveira Salazar, referred to 10th June as Dia da Raça (Day of the (Portuguese) Race). The notion of a Portuguese “race” served his nationalist purposes. Talk of race and nationalism together make my blood curdle. Independently they are bad notions; together they are downright evil. At bare minimum they have led to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, not to mention endless ethnic strife in eastern Europe, Iberia, the Middle East . . . you name it. Despite endless claims to the contrary, and general popular belief (aided and abetted by dubious DNA studies), race is not a demonstrable biological fact. Nations are political facts, and every nation – every nation – is pluralistic. There is always a dominant group, but minorities exist in every single nation on earth.
Portugal Day celebrations were officially suspended during the Carnation Revolution in 1974. Celebrations resumed after 1974 and were expanded to include the Comunidades Portuguesas, Portuguese emigrants and their descendants living in communities all around the world. I am perfectly happy to celebrate a culture’s heritage – especially with food – as long as regionalism, diversity, and pluralism are accepted as realities to be celebrated as well.
Here’s a small batch of quotes from Camões to help get in the mood of the day:
Once you experience love, I’m persuaded
you’ll know what I’m on about in my verses.
Love is a fire that burns unseen,
A wound that aches yet isn’t felt,
An always discontent contentment,
A pain that rages without hurting
Since it gives me so much bliss
to give you everything I can
The more I pay you, the more I owe.
I gave you cozido à portuguesa here, http://www.bookofdaystales.com/miracle-sun/ and this should also be a strong contender for Portugal Day. Or you could make caldo verde (green soup), made with onions, potatoes, and kale. It is a favorite of mine (when I can get kale). It is customary to serve the soup with Portuguese sausage and crusty bread to dip in. In different parts of the world, cooks use other greens (such as collards) in place of kale, and they may dice or mash the potatoes in the soup. They may also add chunks of sausage directly in the soup. My recipe is rather precise and specialized (i.e. refined). You do not have to be quite so refined. It is a peasant dish, after all. That also means that you can add as much garlic as you wish (Portuguese cooks are not shy about garlic) and you can deal with the kale and potatoes any way you want.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz chouriço or linguiça, sliced thin
1 onion, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves (or more), peeled and sliced
2 ½ lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups chicken stock
1 lb kale, thick middle stem removed, and leaves cut into very fine strips
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sausage slices and cook them until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the sausage to a plate. Leave all the fat to flavor the soup.
Put the onions in the pot and sauté them until they are soft. Sprinkle in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
Add the potatoes, cover everything with stock, and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat so the soup gently simmers. Cook until the potatoes are almost done, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool a little.
When the caldo verde is cool enough to work with, purée it using a wand blender.
Add the kale to the soup, bring everything back to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, it’s not a bad idea to cool the soup and refrigerate it overnight. This step always enhances flavor.
When you have the soup heated, serve it in deep bowls garnished with a single slice of chouriço, with the rest of the slices on the side with some crusty bread.