In my previous three columns on Portugal, there’s been mention of cod, bacalau in Portuguese. They are everywhere in Portugal except in the water. You will not find a single cod in the rivers, bays or even the oceans off Portugal’s shores, which is why I was unable to fly fish for the most popular seafood in the country.
I’m not sure one can even catch a cod on a fly, but that doesn’t mean there was a lack of opportunity to taste this national dish. It is served at every meal – fried, sautéed, baked, boiled, roasted, shredded and layered like lasagna. It was said that there are 1,001 ways to prepare it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a cod ice cream.
The reason why there are so many cod and cod recipes in Portugal apparently goes back centuries when England was overrun with cod and wanted more wine and Portugal was drowning in wine but lacking in seafood.
The two countries set up a thriving trade – English cod for wine, Portuguese wine for cod. There was just one problem – lack of refrigeration. The only way the cod would survive the long voyage from England to Portugal was if it was dried and salted. The only way wine wouldn’t sour on its way to England was if the fermentation process was stopped by fortification (adding alcoholic spirits).
So the Portuguese got salty, dried fish carcasses and the Brits got port wine.