If someone comes to you and spontaneously reaches out to "dar/apertar o bacalhau", you will realise that you are in the presence of a Portuguese and, no, it is not your fault, you never promised to bring that person a cod. You are simply being greeted with a friendly handshake. Where the word "cod", besides appearing on our tables, also becomes part of the colloquial Portuguese language, one realizes how important cod is in the Portuguese culture. In this particular case, the flat shape of this dried fish is used as a metaphor for the human hand.

But examples used for the word "cod" do not end here. The expression "ficar em águas de bacalhau" ("to fizzle out") usually means that after all, what was expected will not happen. The origin of this expression dates back to the cod fishing activity in Newfoundland waters, in the first half of the century. In very tough conditions, fishermen were distributed in banks dories, with hooks and lines, through very cold and foggy weather conditions, not sure of being able to return to the mother ship at the end of the day.

 “Para quem é bacalhau basta” ("beggars can’t be choosers") is another very meaningful expression, which tells per se how the Portuguese perceive this fish. Besides being abundant, cod was deemed to be an affordable commodity. Therefore, this word has been adopted over time to designate something or a situation that the poorest people would have access to.

In Portugal, cod is nicknamed “the faithful friend” (o fiel amigo), apparently because it has never lost presence on a Portuguese table. Even in the most difficult conditions, the Portuguese have always been able to count on dried and salted cod to prepare a meal. Lack of any other food to cook, especially in the mountainous villages of Portugal, cod could always be found, thus becoming "the faithful friend" of cooks and family members.

Fish consumption in Portugal is mainly linked to religious motivations. Christianity imposed, as a penance, fasts and abstinence from meat and animal fats for a good part of the year, making fish consumption compulsory to escape an exclusively vegetal diet. Coastal areas were supplied with fresh fish, which did not happen in inland areas - where a scarce elite could afford buying some - despite freshwater fish consumption. Cod, once salt-cured, had a higher conservation capacity, thus becoming an important commodity, many centuries before modern science valued it as an outstanding food due to its firm, almost fat-free white flesh, which, once dried, becomes a protein concentrate: about 80%. In addition, most of the cod is usable: head and tongue (in brine), samos, swim bladder - and liver, a healthy oil source.

Salted and dried cod is very important in the Portuguese population diet, the largest cod consumer in the world. About 20% of global cod fisheries is consumed in Portugal, with an average of 6 kg per inhabitant/year.

You can still find the oldest points of sale of salt-dried cod in Lisbon. At Rua do Arsenal - between Cais do Sodré and Terreiro do Paço, that is to say, between Hello Lisbon Cais do Sodré and Hello Lisbon Baixa Ouro Collection apartments, you will find grocery stores such as Ramalho, Rei do Bacalhau and Pérola do Arsenal. We suggest you a visit and, why not - if you love to cook - buy this treat to give your family and friends "Pataniscas" as a gift?

PATANISCAS

(CODFISH FRITTERS)

 - 4 people

- 20 – 40 minutes
- easy

 Ingredients

 - 600 g shredded cod 

- 4 eggs
- 50 g flour
- 1 onion
- 1 fresh parsley
- Olive oil for frying
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste

Preparation

Cook the previously soaked cod. Drain and thin out the slices, bones and skin off. Make the dough by mixing the eggs with the flour until you get a paste. If you find it necessary, you can add some of the water where you cooked the cod. Finely chop the onion, as well as the parsley. Add the dough and the cod. Finally, season to your taste and fry tablespoons of the preparation in very hot oil. Be sure to let it drain on absorbent paper, to get rid of excessive oil. Serve with a spicy mayonnaise and a touch of salad.

 Recipe source and photo: www.terradobacalhau.com/Chef Vitor Sobral

 Cod, a popular food, has become a sophisticated, cosmopolitan-inspired dish, with complex preparations. It has long been used in many recipes of the Portuguese cuisine. It has become, in one way or another, a symbol of national identity.

 Enjoy your meal!

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