Memories of Portugal’s Foodie Legacy

Manthorpe B&W

Jonathan Manthorpe

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil brought back odd memories for International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe — not about football, not about the host country Brazil, a former Portugese colony  … but about food. “Of all the restaurants I have patronized around the world, three of the most memorable are in former Portuguese colonies,” he writes. “It’s not that the Portuguese ran an empire of gastronomy. The common theme in all three restaurants is high quality ingredients, cooked simply and without fuss.” Excerpt of today’s column:

Quite rightly, the wall-to-wall media coverage of every aspect of Brazilian life that has accompanied the global fixation on the football World Cup has paid little attention to the country’s history as a Portuguese colony.

Quite rightly because Portugal’s empire in the Americas, Africa and Asia was perhaps the least memorable of the European colonial adventures of the last 500 years. Whatever one’s stance on the history of European colonialism, the French, British, Spanish and Dutch empires all contributed something positive to the territories they occupied. But it’s hard to find anything to put in the plus column when checking off the record of imperial Portugal.

And, if the way Portugal abandoned most of the last bits of its overseas possessions is anything to go by, the Portuguese themselves had little attachment to the places they had occupied since the mid-1400s. After the “Carnation Revolution” in April, 1975 overthrew the military regime and established democracy, Portugal abandoned almost overnight its remaining colonies. Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, Goa, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, and Guinea-Bissau, were cast adrift with no concern for a managed handover.

Departing Portuguese colonists sometimes showed the depth of their contempt by burning their homes and destroying public works such as the water systems and electricity power plants as they left for the airports. Only the gambling enclave of Macau on the South China Coast remained and was finally handed back to Beijing in 2000 … read more (subscription*)

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Portugal’s Foodie Empire

Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page is here.

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