A Weekend of Whaling History, Quahogs, & Portuguese Cuisine
By Terrie Ortwein
Hubby & I were invited to a surprise birthday party in Cape Cod for a business associate last week. We decided to extend the visit by a few days so we could enjoy the Cape scenery and cuisine. The party was to be held at The Barn at Bensons Pond in South Middleboro, Massachusetts. Bonus!!! The Barn is located on the edge of a cranberry bog! I have always wanted to see a how cranberries were grown. Visions of seafood, seashore, ships, and two guys in waders standing in the middle of a sea of cranberries (you all know the commercial) began to swirl in my head.
Crazy, crazy amount of time spent trying to figure out where to stay and where we would go to eat. The more we researched, the more confused we became. Finally, we decided on New Bedford which was close to the party location and happens to be a seaport well known for its whaling history and its old town area is a foodie mecca. A little scenery, a little history, and a whole bunch of good food!!! Perfect.
New Bedford’s nickname is “The Whaling City” and is home to an exceptional whaling museum. In the 19th century New Bedford was one of the most important whaling ports in the world. In fact, the whaling industry made New Bedford one of the richest cities per capita in the world during its whaling heyday. Herman Melville worked in New Bedford as a whaler. His book, Moby Dick, was published in 1851 which was around the time the whaling industry began to wain as many whalers headed west for the Gold Rush. New Bedford is today American’s #1 fishing port with a large fishing fleet that provides fresh seafood for the locals and its numerous restaurants.
During the height of the whaling industry, New Bedford became known as the Portuguese capital of the U.S. Most Portuguese came to the area from the Azores which was very involved in the whaling industry. During voyages to New Bedford, many Azoreans remained and settled in the area. Even after the decline of the whaling industry, Azoreans continued to settle in New Bedford to work in the cities growing cotton-textile industry. The food of the area is richly influenced by the Portuguese and is evidenced by the use of linguica (Portuguese chorizo) in many dishes such as steamed clams with linguica, stuffed quahogs (I won’t tell you how many of these we ate - we were on a mission to consume as many as possible), paella, kale soup, clam bake with linguica, seafood stew, and steamed mussels. I’ve shared a recipe here for the Kale Soup. It’s perfect for this chilly weather.
Oh, and funny thing about that cranberry bog? While I didn’t get to see the two guys standing in the middle of a sea of cranberries, the bog is part of the Ocean Spray Cooperative so I wasn’t too far off in my vision!
Portuguese Kale Soup
Makes about 10 cups
1 1/2 Tbsp olive or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water, or a mix of water and chicken/veg stock
4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
6 oz Portuguese linguiça or chouriço sausage, or Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
4 cups chopped or shredded kale (or another green, like Swiss chard or collards)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Red Pepper Flakes, optional
Heat oil in a large soup pot, over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until tender but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the water or stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a potato masher, lightly mash the potatoes in the pot, to give the soup a chunky texture.
In another skillet, over medium-high heat, cook the sausage (add a little more vegetable oil, if you wish), stirring, until browned. Add the meat to the soup pot. Pour a small amount of the soup into the skillet, scrape up any browned bits, and return the liquid and browned bits to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the kale, and simmer another few minutes. Add the lemon juice, and red pepper if desired, then ladle into bowls.
** For a more substantial soup, add a can of drained & rinsed white beans along with the kale.