As printed in the
A taste of home
Portuguese-American transplant to Minnesota feeds nostalgia
through Web site
By DICK WHITE, Standard-Times staff writer
Gil Sequira missed the Portuguese foods of his hometown,
such as this carne d'espeto bring removed from the grill by
Billy Binning at the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in New
Bedford in 2003. The Minnesota man's solution was to create
a Portuguese food Web site as a hobby.
When Gil Sequira left New Bedford in 1972, oh, how he
Mainly, for Portuguese cuisine.
Thirty years later, he partially sated that need by starting
a popular Web site that is introducing basic, Portuguese
gastronomy to the world from a place where bacalhau has yet
to surface for air: Minnesota.
If you happen to stumble across a Web site called Gil's
Portuguese Recipes (portuguese-recipes.com), here is what
"My name is Gil Sequira. I was born in New Bedford,
Massachusetts. My parents and grandparents were all
Portuguese. My paternal grandmother was born in Brazil and
was cousin to the late great Carmen Miranda. I grew up in a
predominantly Portuguese neighborhood, however, I know very
little of the Portuguese language. My parents spoke mainly
English to me.
"There were Portuguese restaurants and bakeries on almost
every corner. Seafood was always in great abundance because
of the fishing industry in New Bedford. So, fresh fish and
the local Portuguese sausages made for great meals, and
"Whether going to a seafood or Portuguese restaurant, or
eating at home, we had the freshest of products. I still go
back to New Bedford every now and again. Living in
Minnesota, I miss the food and the ocean. I hope you will
like the recipes."
So we gave ol' Gil a call at his home in Minnetonka, Minn.,
and home to the one-time Raspberry Capital of the World.
"We got one Mexican and one Spanish restaurant in South
Minneapolis," said the 61-year-old retired transit
dispatcher. "And that's it. There are no Portuguese
restaurants here. Isn't that a shame?"
Why, it borders on sacrilegious.
"I grew up in the South End (of New Bedford)," Mr. Sequira
said. "I went to Mount Carmel School and (GNB) Voc-Tech.
Everything was Portuguese.
"Some people I talk to here don't know where New Bedford is.
Heck, some of them don't know where Portugal is."
Don't you hate when that happens?
"I know a Portuguese restaurant would go over big" in
Minnesota, he says. "I was thinking of about opening up one
here, but I don't know if I want to put in all the work at
my age. People just to love eat out here. They open up a new
restaurant and, two days later, it's filled.
"When I get hungry for Portuguese food, I just make it. I
grew up on it, and it's in my kids' blood. They love to cook
Gil, who started the website two years ago because he needed
a hobby, formerly was a cook in the National Guard, and had
short stints at various restaurants throughout the years.
His last job when he lived in New Bedford was at the Gulf
"When we first left New Bedford, we were homesick," said Mr.
Sequira, who lives in the Minnetonka with his wife, Bernice
it's Vernice( Long) Sequira not Bernice, a daughter Amanda, 27, and two
boys in their 30s, Brian and Tony (
all married now) . "That
didn't last very long -- maybe a couple of months. But you
get this feeling that you've left people. We kind of felt
bad about that, but we had to do what was best for us at the
"The winters here (in the western suburb of Minneapolis)
aren't like New Bedford. When that first snowflake hits the
ground, it's there until April. We got a lot of below-zero
weather. It's brutal out here."
The last time he visited New Bedford was four years ago, but
he still tries to keep in touch with all things New Beige.
"We got a copy of 'Passionada,' just to see the background,"
he said. "We rarely go out to the movies, but it played here
for about a week in a theater that was, I swear, ready to
fall apart. The place looked like it was ready to be
condemned. We went to see it twice, and there were only a
handful of people there. The house they lived in (in the
movie) is a block from my dad's house.
"Of course, whenever I go back to New Bedford, I always try
to get to my favorite restaurants -- (the now defunct)
Portuguese Shanty, the Orchid Diner, Davy's Locker,
Antonio's and Cafe Mimo."
Gil's Web site also features photos of the Feast of the
Blessed Sacrament by local amateur photographer Earl
Hubbard, along with various links to food and books.
"I personally like caçoila and bacalhau," Gil said. "I got
oodles of people that write to me. I get e-mail everyday.
"Sometimes people who visited in Portugal want me to find a
recipe for them. I got a lot of e-mail friends through that
site. It's unbelievable."
And as to his relation to (actress/singer/dancer) Carmen
Miranda, the South American samba star who brought
outlandish costumes and fruit-laden hats to American World
War II wartime audiences:
"Oh yeah, my grandmother's maiden name was Miranda and she
was a first cousin to Carmen Miranda, who always used to
wear the bowl of fruit on her head -- Carmen had the fruit
on her head, not my grandmother."
You can e-mail Gil at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And keep on cooking.
Thanks to Dick White of the
Standard-Times for writing this story.