Rich, hearty kale soup has been a staple in most Portuguese kitchens ever since the first days of Portuguese immigration to Provincetown. These enormous steaming kettles of soup were economical and fed large families for a day or two at a time. The soups also easily provided the immigrant's large family with one or two main meals or a boat full of hardworking fishermen a mid-day snack. Because kale soup contained vegetables, potatoes and some kind of meat, it was also highly nutritious.
Kale soup vies with clam chowder as the most popular soup in Provincetown. The Portuguese equivalent of Jewish chicken soup, kale soup will cure what ails you. Once found only in the home kitchen, kale soup is now on the menus of almost all of Provincetown's restaurants.
|Soups | Sopas
Calde Verde | Tillie's Kale Soup | Edith's Kale Soup | Holly's Kale Soup | Jane's Kale Soup | Dot and Bill'S Kale Soup | Lenny's Portuguese Soup | Portuguese Soup-The Moors Restaurant | Corn Chowder | Mussel Chowder Or How Paris Changed Chowder | Fish Chowder | Real New England Clam Chowder | Macaroni Soup | Squid Stew | Squid and White Bean Soup
Caldo verde in Portugal, kale soup is called couves by most Provincetown old-timers. Although couves is actually the Portuguese word for cabbage, couves in Provincetown is synonymous with kale, the dark green, curly-leafed vegetable that is easy to grow and better to eat after the first frost. Because kale can stay in the ground long after delicate greens like spinach are but a distant memory, kale has always been a popular staple in the kitchens of the Provincetown Portuguese.
What actually goes into a kale soup is often the subject of considerable debate. Regional differences also exist in Provincetown with people from the Portuguese mainland using large cuts of meat, often pork, rather than linguiça like the Azoreans do in their soups. Many Portuguese cooks, like my mother-in-law, added cabbage and any left over pork or smoked shoulder to their kale soups, economically stretching the soup for yet another meal. The fact that these tasty goodies added to the flavor was a bonus.
Purists like my mother-in-law, however, scoffed at the addition of ingredients like tomatoes, carrots, wine and garlic to kale soup. Hers was the basic meat and potatoes kind of kale soup. Many Portuguese cooks, on the other hand, wouldn't dream of making kale soup without adding a little something extra like wine or maybe even a dash of vinegar. I suspect that as times got better and people could afford to add these extra ingredients they did.
As kale soup has evolved in the annals of the Provincetown culinary tradition, more experimentation has occurred. Debates on the subject of what constitutes a good kale soup are legendary in the folklore of Provincetown. Although the soup is forgiving and can take the addition of just about anything, my advice is keep it simple.
Chowders and Other Good Soups
Before codfish became scarce and before the strict regulations on the taking of clams, chowders and other soups made from squid or vegetables and beans made many a meal in Portuguese households. These soups were simple fare, often served with nothing more than a crusty loaf of Portuguese bread. The chowders, especially, were very basic and unencumbered by the celery and the thickeners which go into the popular versions of today's clam chowder.
Although most Provincetown restaurants serve New England clam chowder (not that red Manhattan style stuff), public taste has decreed that chowder be thick and creamy. These chowders, though delicious, are a far cry from the lovely, uncomplicated elixir of clams, onions, potatoes, salt pork and salt and pepper that is the essence of a real New England clam chowder. With a dollop of cream or milk added just before serving (never, ever, cook the cream in the chowder) these real, New England style chowders are almost only served today in people's homes. The late Joel O'Brien, who made one of the best traditional clam chowders I've ever tasted, would dice up some salt pork, fry it until it was crispy and sprinkle it over his chowder just before serving for an additional variation.
You will not find these simple chowders in most restaurants, but they are easy to make. Start by throwing away your can opener and flour bin and go clamming. If you can't go clamming or don't know any fishermen, buy only the freshest clams you can find and dive right in. Most supermarkets have good fish counters these days. It won't take long and the rewards are well worth it. Real New England chowder is delicious and satisfying. Once eaten, you will never again order that wall-paper paste concoction that is commonly passed off today as chowder on store shelves or in restaurants.