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 As printed in the Standard-times 7/7/04

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 hungered.
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 you'll see:
"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 still do.
"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?"
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 it."
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 Hill Dairy.
"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 time.
"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."
Right.
You can e-mail Gil at: portfood2002@yahoo.com
And keep on cooking.

 

Thanks to Dick White of the Standard-Times for writing this story.

                     

                                                

 

                                                                                                                 

 

                                                

 

Portuguese-recipes.com. © Gil Sequira, 2003 All Rights Reserved.