9. 10. 2020

English Version | Gourmet

by Nuno Miguel Dias


It is like a youth game played between classes from other times, when there were no smartphones. Say a food that is blue. It's tough, isn't it? To find it, not the food itself. There are some (few) reasons for this primary color not to exist in the diet. But there are also wonderful exceptions.

The memory is diffuse until that moment. Try to understand, I was a teenager full of joy, dreams and abs (not necessarily in that order) who sacrificed a month of the three long days that constituted school holidays to work so that I could spend 15 very short days with my friends in a rented house in Albufeira. It was, therefore, customary for my drunken states to begin much earlier than today, which are now only on special occasions and when they happen at the weekend (sad, I know). And although this age is an excuse for a lot of things related to memory, which is already failing me, I have noticed that the memories of those times are betrayed for reasons far less tragic than the decay of basic faculties. Paradoxically, the most impactful moments are shaped like flashes that appear, many times, unsolicited. There are things that are impossible to remember. What place did we go to at night? It was there, like, in Albufeira. What did the citizen of the Netherlands look like a few years older than me (she was 21, she told me) with whom I did things with all the appropriate messiness of a young age and the annoying sand on the beach that sticks everywhere? She was blonde. I think. But that moment when my friend Elvis' father cut off the head of the garfish I had caught?! This one is as present as that day when my first dog, Putchi (yes, I am from the 80s), was welcomed in our house. Or the first time I was able to float in the sea, belly up, arms open, without my father's hand keeping my legs afloat.

But let me contextualize. First of all, yes, I have a friend named Elvis. Yes, in his identity card, really. And it is one of the greatest. Of those so old and who shared with me so many insanities typical of the senselessness of age that thirty percent of them cannot be revealed today, because we are serious and family men at the eyes of many. Sometimes. Or at the eyes of those who don't know us that well, let's confess. But on that bright and somewhat hot summer morning we decided to take a break from self-induced alcoholic toxicity and wake up early (or not even sleep?), To join Mr. Baptista, Elvis’ progenitor, for a fishing trip in Olhos de Água or in Praia da Falésia, I don't remember well (there is a diffuse memory until now). I know that we "launched" from a cliff and everyone "took" mackerel, at four by "device" of six hooks. Me? Such a mastery (irony), similar to that demonstrated with the citizen of the Netherlands (does it seem so much that this is a repressed memory?), That it took hours and hours to contemplate the horizon waiting to feel something. Until a humble needlefish was deceived and was placed on the stone, an authentic silver leaf jumping. Mr. Baptista pulls out his razor and “Take the hook out of his mouth? No way. We cut off his head and that’s it”. This is my present memory. There was no blood. There was a blue liquid tinting the rock. Blue as the waters of the Caribbean. Cyan, therefore, so that designers and scholars in graphic arts understand me. Pool blue, turquoise, the color of the planet Uranus, from Turkish religious buildings on the Mediterranean coast. Blue. It was the first time that I tasted something like that. Fried. But in Caparica, mon lieu de naissance, it dries up. Then to be soaked and in no way, to the incidence of the star-king, who considered himself harmful. They were, shall we say, white as lime. Which makes the veins that touch the skin (on the face, neck and wrists) appear to be bluer in color. Nowadays they are more characterized by the bank account in a random offshore. 

But going back to the Malvinas Islands (or Falkland Islands), British overseas territory located in Antarctica, which Argentina still does not recognize. That was the stage for one of the “strangest” wars of the second half of the 20th century. Which will only have served to reiterate the tenacity of the "Iron Lady" and show the world that the British Empire still existed. To get a little idea of ​​this very British thirst of territory, here I tell a story from the island of Faial, Azores, according to the oldest islets... The Capelinhos Volcano, whose eruption began in September 1957 (with more than 200 earthquakes) and only ended in October 1958, was followed by the whole world with interest and, according to the story, very closely by an English military ship. On October 10, 1957, an island was formed offshore (Ilha Nova or Ilha do Espírito Santo) that reached 900 meters in diameter and 90 meters in height, thus making the crater open to the ocean (until then, the volcano was submarine). According to testimonies at the time, given by the local inhabitants, a small vessel left the English flag ship to fly the flag of the United Kingdom there. Unfortunately for them, that same island would sink into the crater on October 29. Lucky us. Because it is thanks to the Azores that Portugal has the third largest exclusive economic zone in Europe. Only that archipelago (954,000 km2) has three times the area of ​​the exclusive economic zone of mainland Portugal. And it is precisely there that one of our greatest wealth resides: the natural resources that come from the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, I'm talking about fish. A lot (no other fleet can fish in those waters except ours) and is uniquely good. The whole world is gnawed by the amount of tuna, especially the Yellow Fin (Galha-à-Ré), the gold of sushi masters, the raw diamond of fish confectioners. Not to mention that this is where one of the world's largest paradises for whale watching resides and, of course, for experienced divers who will never return to the Caribbean once they have explored the underwater surroundings of Flores Island. Basically, around the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira and on the western front of mainland Portugal (shout out to the bass pieces of Berlenga and Fariillões), there is a Deep Blue that hides our Gold Under Blue.

The Blue Shark, very common on our coast, is known in supermarkets as Tintureira. And in many restaurants that claim to be typical from Alentejo, like Cação. Of course it is not blue when sliced. But let us not be so American that we do not know what we are eating as a condition for us to eat it. The species is characterized by a rather bluish upper part, to be confused with the ocean floor when seen from above, and a white belly to be confused with the surface when seen from below. But, besides that, there are many other blue-colored fishes, but they lose it when they are no longer fresh. Which is, of course, one more reason why we consume them while the blue lasts. Like the pigfish (that nobody wants, luckily for me, because I adore it) and even a species much appreciated (but only by fishermen) on the West coast of the USA, the Ling Cod (Ophiodon elongatus), whose own meat is of turquoise color, due to the action of bile pigments, biliverdin. In addition, the name "Blue Fish" is used in nutrition to define fish rich in Omega 3, which are recommended to be eaten at least three times a week to prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce cholesterol and the growth of cancer cells. They are characterized by having a blue colored back, they live close to the surface, they have a forked caudal fin and more blood than the other specimens. They are generally migratory species that move at great speed, hence they often do not have scales, but rather a kind of serration next to the tail that strengthens the musculature to help locomotion.

Also chicharro, tuna, mackerel, swordfish, sardines, trout, anchovies and, incredibly, salmon (what?). It is for this reason that I often prefer popular concepts. And “Blue Fish” is also under the name “Peixe Raimoso”, more commonly applied to highly perishable fish, which requires a lot of care when handled and demands to be consumed on the same day, under penalty of food poisoning able to envy any seafood with a week of restaurant showcase. All of the aforementioned species coincide between these two “notions”, but there are swordfish, barracuda (bicuda, in the Azores), eel, red mullet, sapphire, moray eel and redfish. On the other side of the “technical” definition, there is Peixe Branco, aka “fish of the rich” or lean fish, including hake, cod (fresh), beetle, tamarind, corvina, sea bream, sea bass, sea bream, sole, grouper and grouper. They are species that accumulate their fat in the liver and, therefore, have very low caloric value. They live in deeper waters, the tail is rounded and are much more sedentary. Therefore, you are wrong if you think there are no edible blue foods. There are few, it is true, but wonderful. And this is someone who eats everything that does not move. As long as it is no longer moving.

In a clear and shameless private joke just for moviegoers, this could be The Story of Adélio - Blue is Not the Most Edible Color. Adélio being that man who thinks that that annoying mold has the habit of installing itself in a food precisely when we were going to eat it. Although I have never been there in the many months that the same food waited for Adélio's consumption. What Adélio does not know is that mold is welcome in a specific grape species to produce unparalleled Late Harvest. Or that it could not not be part of French cheese called Roquefort, in Italy Gorgonzola and in England Blue Cheese, of which the most famous is Stilton, which is usually paired with Port wine. At this point, some reader exclaims “but that is not blue, it is green”, a possibility that leads me to place a warning here: This is not a couple discussion in which he says that the polo shirt that she offered him is pink and she says “it is nude, to be paired with khaki pants”, to which he replies that they are brown. I am not going to give examples such as red cabbage or blackberry, in which there is obviously blue pigment, but not in sufficient quantity to supplant the (little) red. I will talk about blue foods and any nuances of purple, violet or lilac, as your life experience has certainly proven, will not be unanimous. 

Blueberries, which are also endemic in Portugal (pine forests of Alto Minho, Serras do Marão and Estrela), but known as hedgehog or mountain grape, are already planted on a large scale due to their antioxidant properties. in the summer. It lowers blood pressure, improves memory and brain function, is low in calories and controls diabetes. Blue corn (maize Hopi, Tarahumara or Yoeme, Mexico) is a variety that was first cultivated by the Hopi and Cherokee Indians, before being decimated by the Americans. It is the basis of typical recipes like tlacoyo, but the great demand it is intended for unmistakable Mexican street food in blue tortillas, due to its sweeter taste. The Vitelotte potato, almost black peel, but with an indigo interior, is widely used in French haute cuisine, from where it is thought to originate, even entering Alexandre Dumas' Great Cooking Dictionary (ed. 1873). With an aroma very similar to that of chestnut, its use today is reduced to the aesthetic component. The indigo mushroom (Lactarius indigo) is also widely used in Mexican cuisine, predominantly in marinades. With a bitter and, of course, spicy flavor, however, it loses its color during cooking, becoming a boring and unappealing gray. But if these are basically the only blue edible plant species, shouldn't there be a scientific explanation? There is! Ask, for example, a painter. The blue color is the most "fragile". The slightest drop of red is enough to turn violet or yellow to turn green. The blue dyes present in plants are very sensitive to light, oxygen and acidity. Which is to say that they degrade very quickly. That's why the green and red color is the most present in the plant world. If we want to consider something much more complex, we say that "color", after all, does not exist. Which is why most birds see much more color than humans. There is light at different frequencies and wavelengths, which are “retained” in our retina and encoded by our brain at each wavelength and frequency. Complicated? Yes. Carl Sagan says it and there is no simpler way to put it. Another justification is very Darwinist and, therefore, more pleasant for those who tend to prefer logic: since prehistory, we tend to associate colors with flavors. Warm colors, like red and orange, tend to be sweet. Green is associated with acid and sour flavors. Blue is associated with spoiled food. By not choosing to cultivate or treat blue-colored species for millions of years, man contributed to its extinction. Paradoxically (or not, because this is being written from the Blue Planet) blue is one of the most present colors in the universe. The planet Pandora, idealized by James Cameron in Avatar (2009), for example, is not improbable. Maybe we will live long enough to see a probe discover a planet that is full of alkalinity, with blue forests and maybe even... Naaaa, forget it!