It may seem strange that Portugal loves bacalhau (salt cod), a fish that can only be found far in the cold North Atlantic Ocean. How did it exactly end up on Portuguese plates?

Bacalhau is the main ingredient of Portuguese food, which uses 20% of the global supply. The Portuguese have a deep affection for this fish, so much so that it is believed to have “365 ways to prepare salted cod, one for each day of the year.” The ancient culinary legacy of bacalhau dishes dates back to the late 14th century. Portugal’s 20th-century dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar, started a “cod campaign” in 1934 to revive the country’s fishing (and drying) industry and make cod the national symbol. However, many of the men never returned to their families’ homes due to the dangerous and tiresome work. Because of this complicated history, cod is loved by many in Portugal.

It is impossible to imagine what the country must go through to get these fish from the North Atlantic. But the Portuguese will continue to love it for many decades to come.