It’s the start of a New Year and we set goals for ourselves but many “new year’s resolutions” are often broken seconds into the new year. I have a simple one for you all: try to cook at least 4 Portuguese meals a week for dinner. The benefits are self-evident because (1) preparing a meal at home is cheaper than eating out, (2) it’s healthier and (3) you will be getting your Portuguese groove on. So, with this simple and approachable resolution you will save money, be healthier and further develop your Portuguese culinary skills.
For Luso-descendants it will bring you closer to your ancestral roots and for others you will learn how to make some new delicious food. Portuguese food is very healthy since it utilizes vegetables, grains and healthy proteins like fish and chicken. Pork and beef also feature prominently but with portion control even a cozido (Portuguese hot pot) can be a healthy Sunday indulgence. Cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out in most cases. The price of food and the rise in minimum wages across the United States and elsewhere has manifested in higher bills at restaurants. Even the occasional treat of a Big Mac meal can cost you nearly $10.
Home cooking is always healthier since you can control what ingredients you use, manage portion control and sodium content. I once had a doctor tell me that being overweight is bad for your health but if your diet consists of healthy home cooked meals you at least have an advantage over those that consistently eat out.
On a personal level, as a home cook and foodie, I learned a great deal not only about Portuguese culinary tradition but also about cooking and food in general. You can read and research all you want but only by doing it repeatedly can you truly improve your skills. For Luso-descendants making something you are familiar with hones these skills because it is something you intimately know. Take for example the recipe for “Bacalhau Espirtual” (Spiritual Cod): it is traditionally made with carrots. The carrots impart a sweet note to the dish, but it also adds a splash of color into what is otherwise a monochromatic scheme. I made this dish numerous times until one day the light bulb went on. I decided to substitute butternut squash for the carrot. It elevated the dish (in my opinion) to new heights. You can also adapt a recipe and use healthier ingredients and with practice you will do so without compromising flavor.
I practice what I preach because I made the decision a few years back to cook more Portuguese food for dinner. I found it was a good way to introduce my seven-year-old daughter to our culture while also ensuring that she varied her diet. For my wife and I it brought us closer to our heritage. Cooking more Portuguese food a week also inspired me to create the Facebook Group and eventually this blog. So why not try it and see what benefits you can derive from serving more Portuguese meals to your family? You can leave comments here or in the Facebook group and tell us about your experiences.