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Food For Thought

Brazilian Food

by Alexandra Leite



A blend. That's the best description for the food that
is found in most Brazilian households. It is more than just the daily rice and beans, and it is also the best definition for the Brazilian
Culinaire; the breed of inhabitants who derived from the combination of various cultures in Brazil: the Indians, Portuguese and Africans.
The manioc (or also macaxeira) is the most widely-used
contribution, brought forth from the Indian culture, and being the base for everything produced by them. At the time when the European's settled here, (not only the Portuguese, but also the French and the Dutch),the natives learned how to measure, season, and preserve their food. Sugar cane was largely produced for exportation and confection of candies andcachaca, and the first herd of cattle was disbanded across the country.

This culinary melting pot got spicier and more
sophisticated when the Africans brought in their unique spices from their homeland. While living and working as slaves in white men's houses, black men and women would also cook for the families. Often they would mix native and Portuguese ingredients and create dishes such as "fish stew with dende palm oil", which was very well-liked by their white masters. For theirgods, they offered vatapa, (fish soup with coconut milk), caruru, (another fish dish), and xinxin de galinha,(a chicken and shrimp concoction).
Altogether, these many cultural influences contributed to the authentic Brazilian cuisine we have today. According to Caloca Fernades, a Brazilian writer and
author of the book "Viagens gastronomicas no Brasil"
("Gastronomic Trip in Brazil") all local kitchens
within this immense country have common ingredients such as corn, cassava, rice, beans, beef jerk,
coffee, sugar and pasta, and everything eaten is a
variation of the same ingredients. From all the European and African influences, we added our "touch", to create our unique Brazilian flavors.
In the Brazilian Northeast is the culinary closest to
the natives' cuisine. There you can find duck with tucupi sauce. "Tucupi is a yellow manioc sauce, commonly sold in the street fairs in Belem, in Para. In the Amazon, along with the rain forest, we can find the acai; a lttle fruit used in diverse recipes, and a fish with ribs; the grilled "tambaqui". Both exhibit distinct and very unique flavors. In the south, the cowboys who take the cattle through the pampas gave their own individuality to cuisine by creating the famous "carreteiro rice" as traditional as the Brazilian barbecue.
In the state of Paraná, barreado is a typical dish;
a meat stew that cooks on low heat for 12 hours. It is well worth the long wait because the meat gets extremely tender. In the southeast, other states also have different dishes. In the coastal state of Espirito Santo, we have "capixaba fish stew" (different from the one cooked in Bahia, since this one does not have dendê oil in it).
In the sunny state of Rio deJaneiro, feijoada (dry pork and black beans), cod fish cakes, and beer are commonly served in the little pubs throughout town. In Minas Gerais, simple food is eaten at its best, as well as cheese breads, ora-pro-nobis, and Tutu de Feijao, (Pinto beans puree). São Paulo's residents of cosmopolitan taste,eat pizzas and sushi, but also love a good, hot pastel, (fried dough filled with cheeses, meat or chicken) in the many street fairs.Within the northeast cities, you can find a rich
culinary, full of seafood fished in the coastaline and tropic dishes from the Sertao, (semi-arid area). In Maranhão, you can find dishes such as the "cuxá", made with salt-dried shrimp and a different intensity of pepper. Going further
north, at the sertão of Rio Grande do Norte, we can find the coalho cheese.
In Pernambuco, more tasty things: a rolled cake, (made
with fine layers, filled with guava paste),"cabidela chicken," (made with the chicken's own blood, vinegar and spices), and "paçoca" of dried-salted<meat. Bahia though, has all the temptations, such as the "acarajé", (deep-fried bread made from mashed black-eyed peas), "bobó de camarão" (shrimp in a thick manioc sauce), and the "vatapá," (paste made from sundried shrimp, peanuts, cashews, coconut milk,
and dendé). The beverage is always the Brazilian
national drink, the "caipirinha".



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Alexandra Leite is a journalist and gourmet. She is from Minas Gerais and eats from Tropeiro beans to fresh french foie gras,without thinking too much about it."

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