Let’s be upfront: we made a mistake. The A to Z list of countries we’ve been following lists this African country as “Cape Verde,” the fourth “C” country, in between Canada and Central African Republic. But in 2013, the country’s government decided that the name of the country should be as it is in its official language, Portuguese: Cabo Verde, and should not be translated into other languages. So rather than kicking off the Cs with Cambodia, we really should have begun with Cabo Verde. Desculpe a todos–sorry, everyone. But here we are now, and Feliz Ano Novo!
Cabo Verde is a cluster of volcanic islands off the coast of Western Africa. The former Portuguese colony is one of the most stable and developed nations in Africa. There’s also a sizable population of Cape Verdeans in New England–approximately 50,000 in Massachusetts.
We began Saturday with cuscus, a steamed cornbread. It’s made using the double boiler method–traditionally, a flowerpot stacked on top of a coffee can filled with water over heat, but I used two similarly sized small cooking pots instead. Unfortunately, my cuscus didn’t turn out very well. I’m not sure if I didn’t put mix enough water into the corn flour, or if I didn’t steam it long enough. The cuscus was very dry and crumbly. We had it with milk, but that only helped a little.
For lunch, I prepared a vegetarian version of the national dish, cachupa. There are many versions of cachupa, and the ingredients one uses generally depends on what you have on hand, and what you can afford. Cachupa rica (rica means “rich”) tends to have more meat, like sausages. Those with less money might add fish instead, and/or less meat. Some of the key ingredients in the stew include cabbage, hominy, and beans.
Since the cachupa needed to simmer for a while, we watched a travel video about Cabo Verde, which showcased the natural beauty of the numerous islands.
The cachupa was ready soon after we finished watching the video, so we ladled out two bowls of the piping hot stew. Even without the meat, it was pretty tasty, and comforting on a cold day.
We took a walk in the afternoon (trying to start the new year right by getting in some exercise). We didn’t do anything or see anything Cape Verdean that we know of, though our stroll did take us past some of the Portuguese restaurants in East Cambridge. Later, back at home, Derek made us jagacida, a rice dish. Instead of the Portuguese sausage linguiça, Derek used soy chorizo, which definitely added a lot of flavor, though I’m not sure how it compares to the original recipe. At any rate, we enjoyed our dinner.
I had requested a Cape Verdean film, O testamento do Senhor Napumoceno (Napumoceno’s Will), from our library network, but unfortunately the movie hadn’t yet arrived at our local branch in time for the weekend. So we watched an American film in the evening instead, and ate some papaya, which are commonly eaten in Cabo Verde, as our dessert.
For breakfast the next morning I decided to experiment with the dry, powdery cuscus leftover from the day before. I mixed in a lot more water and tried steaming the mixture again. The cuscus held together better, but still tasted pretty powdery.
The Dorchester neighborhood of Boston has two Cape Verdean restaurants, so we headed to one of them, Restaurante Cesaria, for their Sunday brunch buffet. The restaurant was quite busy, and we snagged one of the last open tables. There were still some Christmas decorations interspersed with the other decorative elements, including this painting of a woman overlooking what may be a Cape Verdean seaside town or village.
The buffet was a mix of American brunch foods, like pancakes, eggs, and bacon, and some Cape Verdean dishes, like a rice with seafood. Near the end of the buffet selection, Derek spotted some thin slices of what looked like a yellow cornbread. “Is that cuscus?” he exclaimed.
We thought it must be, so we both made sure to grab some. Here’s a picture of Derek’s plate:
The cuscus was definitely different than what I’d tried serving for breakfast the past two days: it was soft, with a cake-like consistency. The buffet was very busy, and although the staff tried to refill items as they ran out, we weren’t able to try some of the items because they hadn’t been replenished by the time we reached their spot on the table, like some puff pastry items. And while we may have had more authentic Cape Verdean foods had we come for dinner (when we could have ordered off the menu) rather than the brunch buffet, it was nice to dine in such a lively atmosphere, where many of the diners seemed to recognize and warmly greet each other in Creole, though they had come separately.
Back at home, we watched two videos that Derek had found. One was an interesting piece on Cape Verdean Americans, all of whom live in New England communities–New Bedford, MA, Hartford, CT, and Pawtucket, RI. We even got to see a chef at a Cape Verdean restaurant in Pawtucket prepare several dishes, including cachupa.
Cape Verdeans often take leftover cachupa and make cachupa frita by frying up the leftover stew with eggs and linguiça (frita means “fried”). For dinner, I browned some sliced onion in a pan and added some of our leftover stew. Since the squash in our cachupa had disintegrated into a puree, I don’t think our cachupa got to a fried stage, but it was reheated. I fried two eggs in a separate pan, and then added one egg to both of our bowls.
Our Cape Verdean weekend had some hiccups, like my failed attempts to make cuscus at home, and our movie O testamento do Senhor Napumoceno not showing up on time, but, like travel, globetrotting doesn’t always go as one hopes. But we still had a good time (and ate well besides that homemade cuscus), so 2016 globetrotting is off to a good start.