Photographer Luís Mileu explores the flavours and secrets behind the recipes of eight women in eight regions of Portugal. Guardians of a cherished tradition that must be preserved: the Mediterranean diet with a Portuguese twist.
Photographer and Creator of the images that captured The Portuguese Soul Of The Mediterranean Diet
COMFORT IN LITTLE TIBET
Amélia was born in a village in Serra do Gerês that is considered a national monument: Sistelo, or Portugal’s “little Tibet”. She runs a restaurant that started out as a grocery shop and tavern. In the country’s rainiest region, the fertile land yields vegetables all year round, used to offer visitors a comforting bowl of caldo verde (Portuguese cabbage soup), which goes very well indeed with a slice of freshly baked cornbread.
“HERMÍNIA OF MARÃO”
Her nickname says a lot about her connection to the land. Hermínia, who spent 17 years in France, returned to Tabuadelo, a small village in the mountains of Marão which were once described by renowned Portuguese writer Miguel Torga as “the wonderful kingdom”. Opening a grocery store and an eatery 14 years ago was the way to go. The table on the porch is always ready to make guests feel welcome and, of course, there’s no better way of starting a meal than with bean soup made in a cast iron pot. The secret: finely chopped homegrown cabbage, just like her father taught her.
FEELING THE PULSE OF TRADITION
A special blend of know-how and flavour is passed on over generations.
RESPECT FOR NATURE
In her little garden, located on the slopes of Serra da Estrela, Ceú grows and nurtures every single vegetable the seasons bring, for her own table and to give to her neighbours. From her small chestnut grove comes the basis of a comforting soup, made possible only due to her care and respect for the ingredients: only after they have been properly shelled and dried in traditional fashion are the chestnuts ready to go into the pot.
AN OCEAN DISH
Daughter, wife and mother of fishermen, Maria Laura moved to Peniche when she was a child. Whether at lunch or at the end of a busy day, nothing nourishes the body and soul like a bowl of her fish soup, prepared with the catch of the day brought home by her family.
FOR COLD DAYS
Poet, author of books on proverbs, former councillor, member of the folk dance group and guardian of the Mediterranean diet. Maria do Rosário serves us a soup in which the main ingredient is a vegetable that grows abundantly in the Algarve region: watercress.
LEARN AND THEN TEACH
Sometimes, necessity is the mother of invention. This was true for Helena, a passionate mother and a vigorous protector of mother nature and her islands: the Azores. Teaching took her far away from home, so she started cooking by following the recipes her mother dictated over the phone. Today, it’s her turn to fill her children’s bellies with a very traditional fennel soup.
For this native Madeiran woman, Eugénia, cooking is a way of keeping her mother’s memory alive; her mother died when she was 16, but not before teaching her the tricks of the trade. She bakes the sweet potato she uses to add that golden hue to her oven-baked wheat soup.
Fifteen days is the ideal time for bread to reach the desired consistency for Adelina Maria José’s “açorda”, to which she adds cod and eggs. This typical soup from the region is one of the dishes in the Portuguese Mediterranean diet that best exemplifies the use of leftovers.
THE FAMILY TABLE
In Luís Mileu’s words, “the power of family and family traditions” can be seen in the faces, recipes, landscapes and harmony around the table. For the photographer, the goal was to “capture these increasingly fleeting moments in time”.