(NOTE: This was the food scene back in the 80s. Much of these foods remain about the same. )
“… I lunched with a friend at an open-air restaurant …we turned our faces to catch any puff of breeze and ordered feijoada completa–the splendid
black bean, rice and meat set-piece of Carioca gastronomy.”-
–Douglas Botting, Time-Life Book, Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil is a country where indigenous populations, plus Portuguese and Africans immigrants blended richly with Japanese, Italians, Germans, Poles, Syrians and Lebanese to form a fascinating, rugged society. As the largest tropical country south of the equator, its surface is checkered with breathtaking mountains, expansive deserts, long, mysterious river basins and a sprawling Atlantic coastline.
Her 3.3 million square miles support 172 million people of diverse skin tones currently made up of 56 percent Caucasians, 38 percent mulattos and 6 percent African. Her population is the largest in Latin American and sixth largest in the world. Her cultural diversity spans all life involvements from the madness of Carnaval to the deep mysteries of the dark Amazon.
Brazil’s worldly history begins in 1500 when Pedro Alvares Cabral set sail from Lisbon and landed in Brazil by Accident. In 1531, King Joao III of Portugal sent the first Brazilian settlers. During the 17th century, African slaves replaced Indians on plantations. In 1807 Napoleon’s army in Lisbon had the Portuguese so intent upon conditions at home, that it opened the way for Brazil to assert her independence bloodlessly.
This is a land of three basic foodways. First, the Portuguese added their own identity to the aboriginal diet. However, it was the Africans in the kitchens of the well-to-do sugarcane plantation owners who are credited with influencing Brazilian food the most. Margaret Visser in her book, Much Depends on Dinner, states “There is increasing evidence that slave traders were choosy about their merchandise: they knew that Africans could supply not only brawn but specific know-how [as to the raising of rice], so they looked for men with skills they required.” Thus rice was introduced to Brazil.
Besides being blessed with a rich, abundant seashore, many, many kinds of tropical fruits thrive. They drink, mix and cook with fresh banana, pineapple, guava, mango, persimmon, tamarind, passion fruit, coconut and oranges. The anthropologists’ favorite, manioc, or manioca, kin to tapioca, is an important staple. Major food production includes soya beans, orange juice, beef, coffee and sugar.
Feijoada, once the food of kitchen help, is now a Saturday night meal and savored by all classes and served in fine hotels. It actually was and is Sunday’s churrascaria scrap foods slaves cooked for themselves for dinner on Saturday night. These days, the dinner starts with a special meat broth seasoned with herbs. Next, a buffet bears black beans, beef organs, cured meats, sausages, tongue, ears and tails, basically stewed, really all the cast-off organ-meats from cows, pigs, lamb and chickens. These are served with white rice, fried manioc flour, kale, oranges, hot peppers and a groaning dessert table.
The Sunday churrascaria is just as ceremonial, but the cuts of meats are the best, including flame‑broiled, sizzling beef, lamb, pork, sausages and chicken. Cooked to all degrees of “doneness,” a seemingly endless stream of servers slice meat off sizzling skewers onto dinner plates. A huge salad bar with hearts of palm, competes with a very generous dessert table. Caipirinha drinks(see below) complement either meal.
· Acaraje: Fried bean curd cake with shrimp, tomatoes, coconut milk, fresh coriander and hot peppers.
· Arroz: Rice, plain, white long-grain
· Bacalhau: Cod fish, preserved in salt.
· Caipirinha: Brazil’s national cocktail of line, sugar and cachaca (sugarcane liquor)
· Caldo verde, Portuguese kale and potato soup
· Couve a minera: shredded kale sautéed in oil with onion and garlic
· Coxinha: spiced chicken rolled in manioc dough, then fried
· Empada or Empadinha: small pie with meat or vegetable filling
· Esfiha: savory pastry filled with spiced meat
· Manicoba: spiced sausage with chicory leaves
· Palmito: Hearts of palm
· Pao de queijo: savory cheese snack
· Pastel: fried, filled pastry
· Pato no tucupi: duck stewed in manioc sauce
· Rabada ensopada: Oxtail soup
· Siri rechaedo: crab shells stuffed with minced crabmeat, cilantro, hot peppers, topped with grated cheese.