slices of dried and salted cod fish

If there is a delicacy in Portugal that is unanimously appreciated, it is cod.

The ‘faithful friend’ has 1001 possible ways to present himself at the table and is one of the symbols of national gastronomy, deeply rooted in the eating habits of the Portuguese.

a slice of cod fish with cream sauce
Bacalhau com natas

The Codfish Story of Portugal

The history of great Portuguese fishing adventures was drawn in an almost poetic way – beautiful codfish and line fishing heroes launch themselves into the cold seas of the North Atlantic. Books were written and movies produced of the adventure of those who headed north and raised the flag of the ancestors and great Portuguese navigators.

Thousands of men sailed to the cold seas of Newfoundland and Greenland, year after year, to fish for cod. They departed from all the fishing communities in Portugal and brought with them the experience of other fisheries and a family tradition of maritime life. The blessing of the cod fishers was a propaganda ritual during the Salazar dictatorship that preceded the departure. The families were left behind on the docks, waiting for months.

Immersive experience that puts you like a fisherman alone on his dory. Close by, the mother ship, usually a ‘lugre’. A man left to himself, paddling the small boat, risking everything in search of fish. Epic and dramatic stories of those who every day challenged the sea.

World War II & The White Fleet

During World War II, the Portuguese cod fleet became an international legend. Facing the dangers of the “underwater war” and taking advantage of the ambiguities of Portuguese neutrality, as a safety measure, the fleet’s cod fishing vessels were painted white.

A cod fishing campaign lasted an average of six months, to coincide with the best weather conditions, during the spring and summer months. After a long day at sea, which could take ten or twelve hours, the fishermen set to work with the scale on the deck of the ship and the salting of the fish in the hold. The greatest joy of men, of all the crew of a cod ship, was the journey home and the triumphant entry into port.
slices of dried and salted cod fish

Every year, around April, ships and crews migrated across the Atlantic working in extremely harsh conditions. With luck, a few months later they would have their holds loaded with fish so they could go home. “Bringing the bread of the seas to the homeland” was the slogan used by the New State’s propaganda to mobilize the crews and involve the country in the Cod Campaign.

Cod is one of the most inventive and diversified foods in the diet of many people. The diversity of recipes and culinary traditions that Atlantic cod generated has, in the Portuguese case, its greatest exponent. Since the 15th century, cod has been part of the Portuguese food consumption habits. Starring on Christmas and Easter tables, cod is one of the symbols of Portugal’s gastronomic culture. Kingfish has a regular presence in Portuguese lives.

Today, much less cod is fished than has been before. Images of abundance and scarcity have always existed, but today we know that the resources of the sea are limited and finite. Climate change is a cause and effect of changes in the species’ behaviour. We don’t know if the appreciated gadids may be missing on the food tables of the Portuguese, who consume the equivalent of 20 percent of all the cod caught worldwide. What future do we anticipate for cod fishing?

grilled cod fish slice with salad and rice
Grilled cod fish with rice and salad
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