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‘Pride and ego’ cannot enter birth place of Jesus

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Holy Land Tour (Palestine and Israel)

by Lalin Fernando

We were a group of 48 that visited the Holy Land (Palestine and Israel) in mid- September 2018. Guided by Bishop of Galle Dr. Raymond Wickremasinghe the group, now sadly 47 as one died on the tour, came back bonded by an experience of a lifetime with a spiritual predisposition. This was in the land of the three Aramaic religions with over 5,000 years of history dating back to Greek, Roman, Persian, Byzantine, Islamic; Crusader, Turkish and British mandate times. Much of it was violent, bloody but more was epochal and inspiring in an exceptional Mediterranean land.

We arrived in Amman, Jordan from Abu Dhabi on a Monday morning. The Israeli border crossing check point palaver which apparently could at times be a six hours ordeal, took us only about 45 minutes. This was most probably due to our tour manager Ms. Thusahari’s tremendous experience (over 20 tours), confidence and efficiency and of course the Bishop’s personality.

Crossing over to the Israeli side we had what was to be a trade mark warm greeting from Sonia, who some thought at first was one of our tour party. An Arab Christian born in Nazareth in Northern Israel, she was our very able guide. With a never failing sense of humour and politeness she kept us closely engaged. At the churches she made sure she was heard above other guides briefing their groups, while Bishop Raymond would translate into Sinhala and elaborate if necessary. Her briefings were delivered in precise and clear English. She asked us to note that much of the land was below sea level, a novel experience.

Our coach driver was gentleman Jameel. On our return to Jordan, it was ebullient Hussein who we were told was not from the Royal family! Both were excellent drivers especially when negotiating the spectacular mountain roads.

This is a fascinating land divided unequally and by force between Jews and Arabs. The UN in 1994 ordered Israel (Resolution 142) to hand back Arab land taken by conquest in 1967.This has not happened. Instead the Arabs were given certain areas designated as Palestinian Authority A and B. One, like Bethlehem, is policed by Arabs and the others like Gaza by Israelis. Provisions for the status quo of the holy places in Palestine are governed by the Treaty of Berlin (1878), so fortunately Israel is bound by it too. While there are parts that look like any first world country, some others saddened us.

We crossed over the Allenby (General, later Field Marshal) Bridge. It was Allenby, called ‘Bull,’ that led the British Army into Palestine during WW1 with the help of Colonel TE Lawrence’s Arab Forces. They had defeated the Ottoman Turks who had ruled most of Arabia for 400 years (1517-1918).The Arabs however were betrayed by the Brit ‘Bloody Balfour’.

We had a tasteless lunch in a restaurant overlooking the northern end of the Dead Sea that is about 300 feet below sea level. As we proceeded inland the scenery was breathtaking. Soaring mountains, bare of trees and greenery were interspersed with deep valleys in this part of the Levant (Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria). Later on we were amazed to see Israeli plantations with mangoes the size of coconuts and four ft tall coconut trees despite geography and rock hard soil. However due to overuse of scarce ground water, the Sea of Galilee which is the main source for Israel’s water, is drying up rapidly.

We saw armed soldiers in many places reminding us sadly of SL pre-May 2009. It excited some who photographed them despite warning notices not to do so. These were clearly young reservists of the crack Israeli Forces. They looked scruffy and bored.

We arrived in the late evening Monday at the impressive four-star Orient Palace Hotel, Al Sahel St, Bethlehem in Palestine. It is pronounced Bethlaham from Bait (House) laham (lamb). Apparently a butcher ran a mutton shop there centuries ago. We showered and struck out for the small shops close by. Our favourite was the Hezar sweet shop run by Issa and his son. We made friends and quickly struck bargains for an assortment of exotic nuts and Arabic and Turkish sweets. US dollars were the preferred currency. Nobody wanted Palestinian dinars!

Our wake up calls were at 5 am on the first three days after arriving, 4 am on one day and 3 am on the Nazareth (longest day) visit. This was necessary in order to be at the religious sites before hundreds of other tourists swarm in. The churches are open even at 5 am. Late arrival could result in considerable delay in entering the churches. As SL is two and a half hours ahead of their time, getting up early wasn’t much of a hassle from our normal waking up times.

The weather was glorious with clear blue skies, if also hot. It was ideal for the climbing and walking that we had to do daily. We drank a lot of water having been warned of heat stroke.

We set off each morning with inspirational Catholic piety, the Bishop leading in prayers and the singing of hymns. (The group had about three Anglicans and one Buddhist too) His Lordship was stern occasionally to make sure we did not waver in focus and purpose. We ended each day with Mass at the last church visited.

The churches made up in atmosphere, character and awe what they may have lacked in Western grandeur. The mosaics, stained glass windows with limestone or marble floors and columns were there but in dark, ‘moody, broody’ churches, lit with an assortment of brightly coloured lamps. Some were in humble stone buildings but they attracted pilgrims from all corners of the world in their thousands throughout the year. The Chinese were the most numerous from Asia.

On Tuesday we visited The Basilica of the Nativity, the birth place of Jesus. One enters it through the 4-foot by 2-foot Door of Humility. It is to make sure that by ‘pride and ego’ cannot enter. It was first built in the fourth century by Queen Helena, mother of the first Christian Roman ruler, Constantine. Burned down in a fire, it was rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixh century.

A 14 point silver star marked the place where Jesus was born. This was removed, probably by the Greeks in 1847, but was later replaced in 1853 by order of the ruling Ottoman Turks. It was a bit underwhelming as it was in urgent need of repairs, said to cost US$ 17 million. The Palestinian Authority (98% Muslim) and many countries including Jordan have contributed.

When the Persians invaded in 614 AD and torched almost all the churches, they spared this church as they believed the mosaics there depicted three women in Persian dress. Co-located is the Church of St Catherine where Christmas midnight Holy Mass is celebrated with teeming crowds.

We followed the Pilgrims route that included Shepherd’s Field, Manger Square and the Milk Grotto where Mary hid the infant Jesus from the Roman soldiers before her flight to Egypt. Apparently the white rock nearby indicates drops of milk.

We visited Mount Zion the site of the Last Supper Room, below which is King David’s tomb. The one mile ridge of the Mount of Olives that used to be covered with olive trees has a breathtaking view of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock covered in gold leaf, dazzling. The Garden of Gethsemane where some of the olive trees are over 900 years old lies at the bottom of the ridge in the Kidron Valley

The Basilica of Agony (Church of All Nations) is by Gethsemane. It is built over the rock on which Jesus spent the night in prayer before his betrayal by Judas and crucifixion. Its interior is purposely dark and the ceiling, painted dark blue, evoking the night time of agony.

We also visited Emmaus Abu Ghosh, seven miles from Jerusalem where Jesus appeared before his two disciples after his death and resurrection and had a meal. We saw the Church of St Peter in Galllicantu where the cock crowed for the third time as Peter thrice denied Jesus. The dungeon where Jesus was humiliated, assaulted and imprisoned by the Jewish High Priest Caiphas before he was tried is under the church. We also went to the Dormition Abbey on Mt Zion where Virgin Mary’s statue lies in peaceful slumber.

In the gorgeous hillside neighbourhood on the road to Jericho was the Franciscan Basilica of Visitation in Ein Karem, commemorating the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. This is where Mary sang her hymn of praise, the Magnificat (Latin-‘My Soul’). It is inscribed on its walls in 62 languages. It was banned in three countries as being revolutionary!

We saw the Golden Gate that is permanently closed but through which it is believed by all three religions that the Messiah will enter in latter days, the Chapel of Ascension (the caretakers are two Muslims), Pater Noster the church of the Lord’s Prayer (now in 140 languages), Pool of Bethesda where Christ cured a man who was crippled (with a noisy Indian tour party disturbing everyone). What is said to be the print of the right foot of Jesus can be seen at the Chapel of Ascension.

 

The left foot print is in the Al Aqsa shrine, apparently not a mosque, which is where the Muslims believe Mohamed made his Night Journey to Heaven, having arrived from Mecca.

On Wednesday we visited beguiling, bewildering and wonderful Jerusalem. There was over-excitement in presence of history, beauty and belief. Yet it is a city under tension as a 400 mile long 84 foot high wall cruelly encircles the West Bank Palestinians. Jerusalem’s name came from the Hebrew ‘Yerushalayim’ meaning the City of Peace.

We entered the walled Holy city after the Church of St Anne, dedicated to the mother of Virgin Mary, via St Stephen’s gate (Lion’s Gate).This is where the first Christian martyr was stoned to death. We walked on the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows – Way of the Cross) to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Calvary). The Jews (who else?) believe the route was different. The tour party, three at a time, took turns to carry the Cross (brought disassembled from SL) from station to station.

Sadly, the death of 80year old Mrs. Violet Perera due to a heart attack occurred in front of the Church just before noon. She had carried the cross twice. Her sister was present. The Bishop joined the paramedics in desperate resuscitation efforts. He and tour manager Thushari completed all formalities with the Israeli police including contacting the next-of-kin of the deceased in Negombo, all within two hours. Regrettably the SL Embassy did not take the many calls from the Israeli police during those two hours. They Embassy denied receiving any calls!

A pall of grief descended. The Bishop sensing despondency immediately revived everyone by reminding them that as we mourn for the dear departed lady, we should not let grief overcome purpose in the Holy Land.

The Church is the most venerated site in Christendom. It has very many chapels of all denominations. Four, some say five Stations of the Cross are within it. There is the lavishly decorated site of the crucifixion, Calvary (Golgotha), the Stone of Anointing and the (empty) tomb where Christ was buried, the traditional site of Resurrection of Christ at the Greek chapel of Anastatis, that has an altar over the rock of Calvary (12th station), the Catholic chapel of Nailing on the Cross (11th station). Underneath the Golgotha chapel is the statue of Mary (13th station).

The Church with a capacity of 8,000 opens at 4 am. About 15,000 visit daily. The Orthodox Greek start Mass, (2 am) followed by the Armenians and then the Catholics at 6 am. There is also a Copt who has to pray alone while Ethiopians do so from their roof top monastery. Priestly brawls over territory occur several times a year.This is despite the ‘firman’ (decree) by the Ottoman rulers in 1852, confirmed by the Treaty of Paris (1856) that binds the various denominations. Roof repairs and even shadows cause problems!

Questions were asked about the Arc of the Covenant where the Word of God, the Ten Commandments, in stone inscriptions inside a box apparently lies buried somewhere in the Temple Mount according to the Jews. Rumours are many and hoaxes a few but the Bishop reminded us not to worry about it as the Covenant is in the hearts of believers. The Jews however are digging for it close to Al Aqsa shrine, posing a problem to its foundation. They believe Al Aqsa was built over King David’s burial site. They insist a discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls proves where the location is and it would finally prove that Jerusalem belongs only to the Jews. When Israeli General Moshe Dayan’s troops swept into Jerusalem after defeating the Jordanians in 1967, he prohibited attempts to raze Al Aqsa shrine.

The Church was lost to the Christians for 700 years. Saladin, a Kurd from Tikrit (Saddham Hussein’s birth place) who conquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders (1198) gave the 30 cm long keys to it to two Muslims whose direct descendants Aded al Judeh (aged 89) and Nusseibeh (69-years) are the Custodians today. They open it at 4 am daily. They hold the ‘newer’ key that is 500-years old. They have the original that is 800 years old too! There is even an unused ladder in place from 1728 on the first floor.

We also visited the Western wall that is the foundation of the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the Jewish faith where King Solomon built their sacred temple. It came under Jewish control in 1967 after about 1,000 years. The Jews do not call it the ‘Wailing Wall’, a term coined by Westerners.

Jerusalem is also Islam’s third holy city.The Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount is the third holiest Islamic site. It is where at one time Muslims turned in its direction to worship. It was to Mecca later. It is out of bounds to non Muslims. The Dome of the Rock is also there.

Coming down hill from the last church for the evening, we stopped at a place where everyone quenched their thirst with juice from massive pomegranates. An Israeli who had found out we were a happy talkative crowd from Sri Lanka said he had been an Air Force officer who had been in SL to fix guns on helicopters in 1988. He said he had an SLAF corporal as driver. This Corporal apparently pointed out Tamils on the streets as he drove in and out of Colombo. He said he too could always recognize an Arab anywhere, snidely suggesting we had something in common. I told him I was 78-years old but had never been able or wanted to look for racial or other differences between the Tamils and Sinhalese.

We had a 5 am start on Fri 14th to go to Nazareth, Jesus’ home town and the Arab ‘Hi Tech capital’ of Israel. It has 70% Muslims and 30% Christians. It nestles on a craggy hillside with tall trees. Its layout reminded one of Nuwara Eliya, where in fact there is a ‘Nazareth’ hotel.

We visited the Church of Annunciation where Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary, and told her she would give birth to a child, Cana, where water was turned into wine, the Church of St Joseph where Joseph had his carpentry workshop, Mount of Beatitudes (Eight Blessings) that is the site of the Sermon on the Mount, with its arches of marble and alabaster, Church of Multiplication, Church of Primacy of St Peter and the Franciscan Wedding Church at Kfar Kanna. Here married couples were overjoyed to be able to repeat their vows. Cana wine was bought by all with the promise of Christmas looming. Unfermented, it is sweet grape juice. Both are tempting.

We then descended to the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) where it is said Jesus walked across its waters. The shore line was luxuriant with tall trees. Inland is the wateless plain of Hattin where the Arabs in 1187 under Saladin defeated the Crusaders under King Guy de Lusignan in one of the most decisive battles of history.

We each had an enormous Galilee Talapilla fish with rice and vegetables in a restaurant overlooking this fabled fresh water lake (sea). Our Hostess said the meal was specially prepared for us and asked if she could sing for us too. She did so sweetly. When she finished we persuaded Michelle who had sung in a Jerusalem church two days previously too, to respond. She obliged with a stunning and electric rendering of ‘O Jerusalem’. The hostess like the other over 100 guests, clearly inspired, sang once more.

We then had a boat ride on the Galilee. The crew at once ran up the Sri Lanka flag and played cassettes of Sinhalese songs as we motored in the emerald green waters overlooked by the Golan Heights with Mt Hermon, dominating and often snow capped, as we looked at the hills of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan

On the way back at Jericho we also saw the Sycamore tree that Zachariah, the short pitiless tax collector for the Jewish rulers, climbed to view Jesus. Overwhelmed at being recognized by Jesus, he reformed himself.

We had a 7am start on Saturday. Most of us wallowed in the turquoise waters of the Dead Sea that is 427m below sea level, the lowest point in the world. It is 35% salt. It keeps one completely buoyant, an unforgettable experience. It also has the lowest bar in the world!

We went to Jericho (Arab territory) and by cable car to the Mount of Temptation (Qurantico) 350m above sea level to have lunch in a restaurant carved into the rock. Qurantico is where Jesus defeated the temptation of the Devil for 40 days and 40 nights. The word ‘quarantine’ so familiar to us now, is derived from it. There is a Greek monastery up there too.

Jericho is said to be the oldest city in the world at 10,000 years. One mosque Omar is 258m (846 ft) below sea level. Just one percent of just one percent of its population is Christian. There is no proof that Jericho fort’s very old walls fell to Joshua’s legendary trumpet calls.

While waiting for the cable car for the return ride, a Palestinian policeman told us how very difficult Israel makes it for Arabs to get a passport or visit another country. Evil.

After lunch we went to Bethany near Al Maghtas where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The very pretty Arab and friendly Israeli girl soldiers caused a diversion- mainly for the ladies – who outnumbered the men in our group! The Israeli’s (who else?) say the actual baptismal place is further north under their control where hotels and guest houses reap the benefits. The river is just a muddy stream here. Its middle, marked by floats, marks the border between Jordan and Israel. The Bishop conducted the baptism ritual for those who wanted it. Jordanian soldiers like the Israelis were seen helping visitors. There is a Jewish ritual bathing too called the mikvah. The Arabs call it ‘immersion’.

As we were leaving an Israeli lady asked us where we were from. Having been told she said she was very happy to see people from SL and hoped that we enjoyed our visit there.

A final mass was in held in Bethlehem This time it was a Palestinian lady who having asked where we were from, thanked us for coming to Bethlehem. Tourism is the life blood of the Arabs in Palestine. There are over 600 hotels in Bethlehem.

All our lunches were at prearranged restaurants but the best was one we chose. At one, after lunch, its management distributed fez hats and organized a crocodile dance with rollicking Arab music. The best dancer cannot be named!

Every night at dinner in the shared Arab and Jewish tradition there were vegetables in plenty with various meats and kebabs and an abundance of fruit. Bishop Raymond unobtrusively sat at a different table every day, getting to know everyone in the group.

On the last night there was a delightful Arab pre-wedding women only party. There was music and dancing. They were all incredibly pretty with peaches and cream complexions and fashionably dressed.

At a short farewell ceremony, Sonia and Jameel were thanked profusely by the group as were the Bishop and Thushari. Individual donations were then given to Sonia and Jameel who became a bit emotional.

We left at 9.30 am on Saturday for our return to Jordan by coach. We were taken up to the heights of Mt. Nebo in Madaba where Moses, after 40 years of wandering to get to the Promised Land, died without being able to do so. He was a prophet of the Jews, Christians and Bhais. We saw the church that is built over his resting place. We had a stunning view of Palestine, the river Jordan and the Dead Sea as we climbed into the mountains.

We returned to SL on Monday with fond memories of a never-to-be-forgotten experience in splendid company. It had been a wonderful, delightful and charming few days. Not only Jews say ‘Next year in Jerusalem’.



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‘Manamala Hendewa’ at Nelum Pokuna today

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The Nelum Pokuna Performing Arts Theatre will once again play host to the solo music concert titled “Manamala Hendewa” by the popular vocalist and musician Keerthi Pasquel on occasion of his birthday today.

The concert titled “මනමාල හැන්දෑව” will likely be Keerthi’s most successful performance to date. The show’s music will be provided by a seasoned band led by Nalaka Saji Jayasinghe, with guest appearances from artists like Chandralekha Perera, Nirosha Virajini, Samitha Mudunkotuwa, and Dammika Bandara for duets. Each member of the audience should leave with a lasting impression of the performance.

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A fish that sparked a national obsession

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Bacalhau (salt cod) is a deep part of Portugal’s culinary identity. But the fish is found far from the country’s shores, so how did this love affair come to be and continue today?

On a cold winter’s evening in Portugal, it might come to your table com natas – fresh from the oven and bubbling in cream – layered between fried potato and sliced onion and spiced with nutmeg. Weaving through Lisbon’s steep and cobbled streets, it wouldn’t take long before you found someone serving it as a light and crispy fritter, dusted with a little coarse salt and dished up with a pot of pungent aioli. You could buy it shaped as mouth-sized fried potato dumplings pastéis style, flavoured with parsley and garlic, for a walk along the banks of Porto’s Douro River. You might even come across it as part of a hearty southern bread soup, topped with coriander and a poached egg.

That’s because bacalhau – or salt cod – which sits at the heart of all these dishes, runs deep through Portugal’s culinary identity, with the country consuming 20% of the world’s supply. In fact, so central to Portuguese hearts (and stomachs) is this ingredient, that the saying goes “there are 365 ways to prepare salted cod, one for each day of the year”.

But for a fish that is found only in the icy depths of the North Atlantic Ocean – far from Portugal’s shores – the country’s love affair with salt cod is a puzzling one. How exactly did it end up on Portuguese plates? The answer is wrapped up in more than 500 years of intriguing history.

Take a trip today to most restaurants, markets and cafés across the country and you’ll find salt cod in one form or another. It even plays a starring role at hip Lisbon restaurant Alma, which earned its first Michelin star within nine months of opening and added a second star soon after.

“It’s funny, sometimes Michelin star chefs or high-end cuisine chefs don’t value salted cod because they don’t see it [fitting] within this type of gastronomy,” said Alma executive chef and owner Henrique Sá Pessoa, of the typically humble comfort food. “But I always have and always will have cod on my menus.”

He assures visitors that a salt cod creation will also feature on the menu of his new restaurant, JOIA, which will open in London later this year. But though bacalhau is a traditional and well-explored ingredient for many natives across the country, Pessoa is still finding ways to push Portugal’s love for it into new territory.

Case in point: his “most Instagrammable” creation, Cobblestreet Cod, named for its likeness to the centuries-old streets outside Alma’s front door in the historical Chiado district. It’s a modern twist on an old peasant dish and one of the country’s most beloved salt cod recipes – bacalhau à bras – where typically shredded salt cod, fried matchstick potatoes and onions are all bound together with scrambled egg and garnished with black olives.

“I knew I couldn’t call it bacalhau à bras because the Portuguese are quite traditional, and people sometimes get offended when you play around with classics,” he explained. “I wanted to get inspired by this dish but elevate it presentation-wise, texture-wise and detail-wise into something more delicate and elaborate.”

The outcome is far removed from the version you’d find on family dinner tables. A creamy mixture of salt cod, fried potato, egg and onion arrives at the table hidden under a veil of wafer-thin slices of cod that have been coated in a black olive tapenade to create a cobbled visual. A final surprise comes when you break into the cobbled dome and spilt a confit egg yolk that has been resting in the middle of the salted cod mixture.

“I wanted to dislocate all these elements of the dish and try and make it as perfect as possible. When we launched it in the restaurant, it was an instant success. It was especially popular on social media because visually it is quite striking,” said Pessoa.

He assures visitors that a salt cod creation will also feature on the menu of his new restaurant, JOIA, which will open in London later this year. But though bacalhau is a traditional and well-explored ingredient for many natives across the country, Pessoa is still finding ways to push Portugal’s love for it into new territory.

Case in point: his “most Instagrammable” creation, Cobblestreet Cod, named for its likeness to the centuries-old streets outside Alma’s front door in the historical Chiado district. It’s a modern twist on an old peasant dish and one of the country’s most beloved salt cod recipes – bacalhau à bras – where typically shredded salt cod, fried matchstick potatoes and onions are all bound together with scrambled egg and garnished with black olives.

“I knew I couldn’t call it bacalhau à bras because the Portuguese are quite traditional, and people sometimes get offended when you play around with classics,” he explained. “I wanted to get inspired by this dish but elevate it presentation-wise, texture-wise and detail-wise into something more delicate and elaborate.”

The outcome is far removed from the version you’d find on family dinner tables. A creamy mixture of salt cod, fried potato, egg and onion arrives at the table hidden under a veil of wafer-thin slices of cod that have been coated in a black olive tapenade to create a cobbled visual. A final surprise comes when you break into the cobbled dome and spilt a confit egg yolk that has been resting in the middle of the salted cod mixture.

“I wanted to dislocate all these elements of the dish and try and make it as perfect as possible. When we launched it in the restaurant, it was an instant success. It was especially popular on social media because visually it is quite striking,” said Pessoa.

Pessoa’s bacalhau

dish is just one of the latest evolutions of a long culinary legacy, one that’s wrapped up in centuries of history little-known to those outside the country. It started towards the end of the 14th Century, when the Portuguese navy found that the dried and salted fish could be stored for years in holds, making it the perfect food for long ocean voyages.

In the mid-1500s, during Portugal’s maritime explorations and hunt to find the coast of India, they stumbled across waters rich with cod around Canada and Greenland; a major discovery that kickstarted Portuguese cod fishing. But by the 16th Century, Portuguese fishermen were pushed out by the French and English.

In the centuries that followed, Portugal became heavily dependent on England as the main exporter of cod, and by the 1800s, the ingredient was something enjoyed only by the aristocracy. However, cod’s popularity expanded in the 20th Century during the reign of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, who wanted to bring it back home. His “cod campaign”, launched in 1934, looked to reignite Portugal’s fishing (and drying) industry and instate cod as a national symbol. Thousands of Portuguese fishermen were sent to Canada and Greenland to fish for cod, with some bringing back up to 900 tonnes per boat.

But this was long, gruelling and often dangerous work, and many men never made it back home to their families. It continued even during World War Two when one Portuguese lugger – the Maria da Glória – was bombed as it headed towards the fishing banks on the west coast of Greenland, killing 36 people on board. These conditions still plague the industry today, with global fatality rates thought to top 24,000 a year, according to the Seafarers Rights International.

It’s this complex history that makes Portugal’s love for cod so deep-rooted, and it’s why Portuguese food expert and chef Leandro Carreira dedicated more than 50 recipes to the product in his new book Portugal, The Cookbook. In total, it features more than 550 traditional recipes from across the country, including a raw salt cod salad, which mixes bacalhau together with barbecued red bell peppers, onions, garlic and parsley.

“If I didn’t include [salt cod], I would have been in a lot of trouble,” said Carreira. “Cod has become so embedded in our culture over the centuries, since the trade of salt began so it was so hard to choose which recipes would feature in the book.”

That love of salt cod still rings true today. “I know people who have eaten cod for more than 30 years every day,” Carreira said. “My grandmother used to eat the same cod dish – cod with boiled potatoes, raw onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and parsley – every single day for lunch. Even I, and everyone I know, had cod at least twice a week.

“Cod is an incredibly flexible product. You can grill it, steam it, bake it, deep fry, you can make a cake with it, have it raw after soaking it in water. So, if you combine this with its affordability and its accessibility, you can see why [it’s popular].”

You can grill it, steam it, bake it, deep fry, you can make a cake with it, have it raw after soaking it in water.

Portugal today imports around 70% of its cod from Norway; the Norwegian Seafood Council describes Portugal as “by far the biggest market for Norwegian cod”. They add that out of the 100,000 tonnes Norway exports annually to Portugal, 95% is salted.

In Norway’s remote and icy fishing island of Røst, they even have a name reserved for the heaviest of cod catches: “Portuguese cod,” said Pessoa, who, as a former ambassador for the Norwegian Seafood Council, visited the island several times. “They know Portugal will pay the best price for that cod.”

This is echoed by Rita Karlsen, chief executive of Norway’s Brødrene Karlsen, which has been exporting salted and dried cod to Portugal since the company’s beginning in 1932. “Portugal is very important [to Norwegian cod exporters]; it’s the most important country that we sell to,” she said. “We couldn’t have survived without Portugal.”

This influence has spread far and wide to countries like Brazil, which imported 8.6 tonnes of salt cod during the Easter period alone in 2019, or Angola, which imported 308 tonnes of salt cod from Norway in 2012, according to the Interpretative Center of the History of Cod, Lisbon’s museum dedicated to the fish. In Italy, they even hold a salt cod festival, Festa del Bacala, every year near Venice, and in the Tuscan region they favour classics such as baccalà alla livornese, which marries salt cod with a rich, garlicky tomato sauce.

For other chefs in Portugal, salt cod bridges the past and present. Like Marlene Vieira, MasterChef Portugal judge, head chef of two Lisbon restaurants and the only female face within the chef’s wing of Lisbon’s Time Out Market, where her salt cod pataniscas (fritters) have won her accolades.

She explained how the fritter recipe was passed down from her grandmother, who came from a poor background. This meant she typically used the cheaper tail cuts of the fish in the batter, which had less moisture and resulted in a crispier finish “like tempura” – an excellent companion to the roasted red pepper and garlic mayonnaise that Vieira now serves with it.

As a child, she remembers helping her grandmother in the kitchen “to do the things she wouldn’t like to do”, like peeling onions, garlic and of course carefully picking out any bones left in the salt cod.

Today, while nodding to tradition, Vieira is keen to further promote the fish along with seafood local to Portugal – and her high-end restaurant Marlene focuses on just that. She even cooks it at home for her daughter, who, she said, “loves, loves, loves cod” – proof perhaps that despite the lengths the country has to go to secure this North Atlantic fish, the passion for it will continue to flow through Portuguese veins for generations to come.

–BBC

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Chef Heenkenda, Thai Mama and Chef Singh join Mövenpick’s galaxy of shining culinary experts.

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Mövenpick amplifies its Japanese, Thai, North and South Indian offerings

In the city hotel’s endeavor to continually provide guests with novel and refreshing gastronomic experiences, three talented chefs – the famed, Chef Heenkenda, the much-loved Thai Mama and Indian culinary wizard Chef Mangal Singh have joined Mövenpick’s galaxy of shining culinary experts. These brilliant Chefs who have excelled in their respective gastronomic genres have joined the hotel’s exceptional culinary team to provide guests with unforgettable dining experiences. Culinary Services Director Chef Priyantha Weerasinghe heads the handpicked culinary team at Mövenpick.

Chef Heenkenda who has introduced incredible Japanese offerings in multiple hotels has transformed The Robata, Thai and Japanese Restaurant with an outstanding culinary repertoire of Japanese Cuisine with over 30 exciting sushi dishes along with 115 new dishes that will take tastebuds straight to the land of the rising sun. Having excelled in Japanese Cuisine for nearly 2 decades he has worked in local 5-star hotels and overseas as a mentee under Japanese chefs. In Abu Dhabi Chef Heenkenda worked together with Michelin Starred Chef, Chef Eric Hunter who was his mentor for 5 years. Chef Heenkenda is a talented culinary maestro who excels in the entire gamut of Japanese Cuisine, including Sushi, Teppanyaki and Hot cuisine. His wide culinary experience will combine to make unique and inimitable, Japanese creations that Mövenpick guests can savour and enjoy with friends and family.

To greatly augment the Robata repertoire Mövenpick also welcomed Chef Arjee Jithman famously known as Thai Mama, who has transformed Thai cuisine in Sri Lanka. Hailing from Bangkok Thailand, Thai Mama discovered her passion to pursue culinary arts at an early age while helping her mother cook authentic Thai dishes at home. She later moved to Sri Lanka to further her knowledge and has made this her island home for over nine years, tantalizing both local and international tastebuds with her exceptional Thai culinary skills, taking guests on unforgettable gastronomic journeys infused with delicate herbs and sweet and sour tones. Thai Mama is delighted to provide diners at Robata with a brand-new array of her notable Thai dishes such as the spicy Tom Yum Soup, Pineapple Fried Rice, Thai Papaya Salad, Chu Chi Goon and fish fresh from the sea, marinated in curry chili paste infused with special Thai herbs.

Chef Mangal Singh, who specializes in South and North Indian cuisine, has been curated the most flavorsome Indian cuisine for a decade at Sri Lankan 5-Star resorts and trendy restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi. Chef Singh will be heading the brand-new Indian Restaurant to be launched at Movenpick. Chef Singh has also studied under Chef Bruno and Chef Anack during his career stint in Thailand. With 13 years of experience in preparing Indian cuisine from the North such as Chicken Makani, Biriyani, Goan Curry and Mutton Roghan Josh, Chef Singh’s Indian repertoire is wide and colourful. Guests can expect special Thalis featuring both North and South Indian favourites. Having grown up in the snowcapped misty Himalayas, Chef Singh was inspired by his mother’s recipes, many of which will be delightful features at the new Indian Restaurant to be launched at Mövenpick. His favourite dishes that promise to tantalize guests include, Mutton Biriyani, Rasams, butter chicken, including a very special Indian homemade chutney.

For over half a decade the famed Swiss Brand has introduced guests in Colombo from across the world to an intriguing and fascinating gastronomic journey, encapsulated in a luxurious and artistically stunning interior. Mövenpick Globally holds a growing portfolio of more than 80 hotels in 24 countries and is a part of AccorHotels, a world-leading travel and lifestyle Group comprising 5000 hotels, resorts and residences with over 1 million rooms worldwide.

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