The intangible Portugal.

Heritage is not only about the material structures, of course. There is a whole range of oral traditions, performing arts, rituals, festive events, practices and skills to be thought of in that sense. People still have a basic need of physical and mental belonging to a particular context and those intangibles are still living and so much needed in the present times.

However, until recently, the traditions, practices and skills have been treated separately, country by country. Namely, the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is quite a 21st century thing and it has been just 10 years since its adoption now.

There’s a world intangible heritage list, with one entry from Portugal so far – the Fado, which was inscribed in 2011. It’s defined as the popular urban song of Portugal, emerged at the beginning of 19th century and associated primarily with Lisbon and maybe Coimbra. The keyword to fado is saudade (the untranslatable word for longing and melancholy and feeling of loss).

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Another intangible asset of Portugal, shared with several other countries and planned to be inscribed in the world heritage list is the Mediterranean diet. There have been some problems in the course of inscription, as far as I know, but having been to Portugal I can say there’s no better example of a living tradition! Something to be investigated and lived in-depth, so I hope, as there are senses and heritage and present time in the mix!

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There’s a museum dedicated to fado in Lisbon, they mapped a few fado-related things, which can be seen here: http://roteiro.museudofado.pt/

There will be an exhibition in Tavira (Algarve) dedicated to the Dieta Mediterrânica – Património Cultural Milenar, linked to its inscription, something to keep in mind for next February/March. Link: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00482&activityID=00094

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Francesinha.

Portuguese eat well and diversely. One of the most memorable (and comforting) meals I had there was “francesinha”. The urban legend says it was invented in 1960s by a Portuguese immigrant who returned from France (“francesinha” means “a little French girl”). There are many Portuguese living in France, by the way, which is a consequence of immigration wave in 1960s and 1970s, caused by the burden of dictatorship and modest living conditions in their homeland at the time.

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The main ingredients are: bread, ham, linguiça sausage, meet (steak), all with melted cheese on top, bathing in a special sauce and accompanied with french fries.

The real “Francesinha” is primarily linked to the city of Porto. Oh yes, they even organize “Francesinha” festivals!

Papa Quilometros

It’s not merely a cookbook, it’s a “journey through Portuguese gastronomy”, as the author, chef Ljubomir Stanišić presents it. It was first published in 2011, following his success in MasterChef Portugal and in running a fancy restaurant in Lisbon. There is also a TV show based on the book; I have seen some episodes on the Travel Channel, but it’s the book I prefer. eb5773952eca4796ff0fccc2e2e2ba34

How does a foreigner who loves and knows Portuguese culture and lifestyle see and interpret them in his domain? How does he link senses, heritage and geography of Portugal? Something to be investigated in my further work! The important thing is that we’re coming from the same cultural context …

Papa Quilometros was a present from a dear person, a serendipity that started an avalanche of ideas and actions bringing me … where? To be found out within some weeks.

O Estendal do Bairro (Cod Fish Clothesline)

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Ljubomir Stanišić, the chef of Yugoslav origin and the owner of a restaurant in Lisbon, invented this dish in 1998, after he arrived to live and work in Portugal. The dish is a multiple-coded creative work, engaging senses and evoking associations: it is a reinterpretation of clotheslines seen in old Lisbon neighbourhoods, which also reflects his contemporary vision of the essence of Portuguese cuisine. A dish made of dried cod stomach brings about the memory of life in old times, when not everyone could afford best meat, and the remains (in this case tripes) had to be used among common people in most creative ways to make a quality meal.

According to the chef, the way the dish is served is meant to evocate Alvaro Siza’s canopy of the Portuguese Pavillion, which he saw at the Expo 98 upon arrival.