Brazilian food is the very expression of its people: a delightful
combination of races and heritages. The country is vast and there are
regionalized cuisines, but the main influences come from three very
distinct cultures. Just like their inescapable influence in the arts,
dance, folklore and music, Brazilian Native Indians, the Portuguese and
the African slaves “shaped” the Brazilian food.
The Native Indian’s greatest contribution is certainly the mandioca
(manioc) and mandioca flower, one of the most consumed products in Brazil.
The Native Indians are also responsible for the widespread habit of using
tropical fruit in every way possible. From natural, fresh squeezed juices
to cakes, desserts and main courses. Brazilian Native Indians also brought
game meat and fish to the Brazilian table.
The Portuguese added more sophistication
to the native Brazilian cuisine. They knew agriculture techniques and how
to raise livestock. They also introduced the production of livestock
by-products such as milk, cheese and smoked sausages. The Portuguese also
put sweets and liqueurs on the Brazilian table.
The creative Africans had already an
accomplished cuisine when they were brought to Brazil. But since the
colony did not have the same ingredients they had in Africa, they had to
improvise. One of the most important products the Africans brought to the
Brazil was the Azeite de Dende (Dende oil). But their ability to mix and
match what was available on the land was their most important contribution
to the Brazilian cuisine.
The Africans creativity and Brazil’s lack of resources at the time of the
colonization created the first and most famous Brazilian dish: “Feijoada”
(sort of beans and pork stew).
Later, Italian, Japanese, German, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and
Arab immigrants added to the toothsome mixture thus making the modern
Brazilian cuisine so eclectic.
Brazilians and Cooking
Cooking is part of the Brazilian way of life. It is a cultural trait much
like the Portuguese, the French and the Italians have. Brazil has
fantastic restaurants. Sao Paulo can be considered one of the world’s
gastronomic centers where you can visit the world by going to the city's
restaurants. But the average Brazilian eats homemade food on a daily
Brazilians also like what we call "street food". It is that type of
"fresh" food that is sold on the beaches, sidewalks, open markets, squares
or any open air space. My favorites are the Acaraje, from Bahia and pastel
de feira (Sao Paulo).
The Ultimate Recipes
One of the things Brazilians miss most when they are away from home is,
definitely, the food. I will never forget the first time I left Brazil.
Besides missing my family, the second thing I missed most was neither the
sun nor the beaches. It was the food. I could almost smell the everyday
rice and beans, with some salad or vegetable and a steak.
Nowadays, I hear my teenage daughter
talk about her grandmother’s food dreamily. One day she misses the
“Picanha” (beef), the following day she misses the Feijoada and there is
no ending to the story.
With that in mind, I asked some Brazilian friends from different states of
Brazil about typical Brazilian food I should write about. Then I asked my
mom, in my opinion the best cook ever and my cooking consultant, to give
me some ideas. Together, we made a list of recipes worthy of trying. Of
course, some of them are simply our favorites and nothing else. We hope
you enjoy them!