Science - January 20, 2005

Food / Humble origins

In the quest for international students preparing food, this week Wb spotted José Pedro preparing lunch in his kitchen in the Rijnsteeg student flat.

José, a Landscape Architecture student from Portugal, checks the oven to see whether his meal is ready. Not quite. He tells that he only arrived a week ago in the Netherlands. ‘I haven’t really tasted any Dutch food yet,’ he says. ‘I’m planning on trying something soon, maybe already this week.’

What he has already discovered though is that the times of meals are different. ‘I heard from a friend that the Dutch have a light breakfast and a small lunch. The main meal is dinner, eaten in the evening.’ José explains that in Portugal most people eat their main meal at lunchtime, making something quickly in an hour.

José says he cooks his own food, usually some vegetables in a pan and a couple of sausages fried on the side. ‘But now and then I make a typical Portuguese dish, like Cozido à Portuguesa,’ he says. He explains that this is a big one-pot dish, with lots of ingredients all in one big pot: different vegetables, herbs, pork and beef, and black pudding made from rice, fat and flour.

Portuguese food is an extension of the Portuguese national character. ‘Portuguese dishes are humble. The discoveries made by the great explorers in the 16th century were our last big achievement. After that my country ended up in a sort of permanent crisis. We only got rid of fascism thirty years ago, and we are still busy with building things up again.’

Going back to food, he explains that Cozido à Portuguesa is a dish with its origins among the working class. Even though things are now going better economically in Portugal, everyone from rich to poor still eats food like this.

There is a ‘ping’ from the oven. José opens the door and sets a ready-made meal in an aluminium baking dish down on the table. ‘Lasagne!’ he announces. ‘I like Italian food a lot.’ / TH

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