Island Food, Island Culture

by: Marianne R. Stanton

The scent memory hit M.J. Mojer out of the blue one afternoon, like one of those fading snapshots taken decades ago that you might find in a drawer.

It was a simmering pot of jag, the iconic Portuguese dish of beans and rice, onions, peppers, paprika and of course linguiça, that lends itself to such personal interpretations that it is possible to tell the cook just from the particular smells.

lora and Joseph Pereira, M.J. Mojer’s grandparents, emigrated from the island of Faial in the Azores in the late 1800s.

“When I moved into my house on Dennis Drive, one day I could swear that I smelled Mary Stanley’s jag cooking,” Mojer said. “Then I learned that her daughter, Margot, had moved in a few doors down.”

The identifying factor in the Stanley family’s jag? More paprika, she said.

Mojer grew up in a household where there was always something simmering on the stove, often a recipe that harkened back to the family’s Portuguese heritage. Dishes like kale soup, linguiça and baked beans, and jag were staples in the diets of many Nantucket families 50 years ago, when there were thriving Azorean and Cape Verdean communities.

“You could always tell who was making jag by the smell of it,” Mojer said. “Every family had their own recipe and their own blend of seasonings.”

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