A Celebration of Food-ersity

Sarah Murray - Brazil


January 19, 2016

Written: 26.12.2015.

 

“Nós temos o melhor

pizza, shawarmas, crepes, sushi, cachorros quentes, carne, peixe, bolo,
chocolate …

do mundo

nós temos o melhor de tudo aqui !!!! “

– Luana, my host sister.

Divisions: Rich, poor, white, yellow, black, brown, borders, Muslims, Christians, Jewish, east, west, south, north, trans, male, female…Divisions. This is what I see when I open my computer, turn on the internet, and see what is going on at home. I see it through photos, messages, articles, shows, and many other subtle means. I see it through the actions of my government. I see it through my own thoughts.

Groupings:Rich and poor and white and yellow and black and brown and borders and Muslims and Christians and Jewish and east and west and south and north and trans and male and female…Groupings. This is what I see when I close my computer, turn off the internet, and see what is going on here at my new home. I see it through the variety of people who live here. I see it in the stories I have been told, and the photos and messages. I see it in my own thoughts here.

Divisions and Groupings are two different things. We naturally create groups, relate to groups and live in groups. Groups are a natural occurrence. However, groups do not need to be divided, to be in conflict with one another. Groups can live together peacefully whilst maintaining a strong culture. This one thing that living in Garopaba has opened my mind to.

 

Of course, what I see both in the UK and in Brazil is limited. It is limited to my smaller experiences with fewer people, their biases, my bias and my privilege. Therefore, I cannot generalize for all, but I can speak for what I have seen and learnt. I do not mean to say that Brazil has no divisions, because in fact the country faces many issues of poverty, women’s rights (through the gaucho culture here in the South) and indigenous rights. However, when I walked the streets in my home in the UK and in India, what I saw was different. People of different groups would openly act with negative stares, verbal abuse, and even physical abuse. Here, when I walk the streets, I see many different groups of people, living near one another and with a sort of common understanding. Regardless of differences, we both have the same struggles. It is this way of life that admire here, and it stems from the whirlwind history of Brazil.

One of the best and easiest ways I can try to explain this to you is by using a topic I love and which brings everybody together. No matter who you are, where you come from, and what you do, you rely on and adore…food!!

Growing up with my English palate there are some ingredients which I have always thought should never go together. Brazilians, on the other hand, take all these ingredients, mix them together and make some of the best food I have ever tasted.

Brazilian food has its roots in so many different cultures. The Southern food that I know, comes mainly from a mix of African (from the days of slave trade) and European (colonialists) foods. All with a great indigenous twist, to create some of the most flavoursome dishes ever created.

 

 

Here are some examples of why I love the diversity of Brazil:

Feijoada.

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Enjoying my first Sunday Feijoada in Curitiba. And a picture from google.

 

What:

The national dish of Brazil.

Feijo-Beans, the black beans are typical of South America.

Feijoada-a rich stew of beans, a variety of meat, and flavourings.

Completa-With rice, sautéed couve, oranges, farofa, uncooked salsa, of the onions, tomatoes peppers, cilantro and dressing.

 

Myth:

The legend says that feijoada was invented in the slave quarters in colonial Brazil’s mining districts, on its coffee and sugar cane plantations. The story goes that usually the food given to the slaves was restricted to rice and beans. When times were good, or to celebrate a holiday, the slaves were given a bit of the least-desirable cuts of pork (skin, snout, ears, feet, belly) to add to their normal diet, and feijoada was born. From there, it was brought into the kitchens of the plantation houses, made more elaborate and elegant, and in the 19th century became urbanized in the restaurants of Rio de Janeiro. From there it was adopted nationally, and attained its iconic status.

 

Origins:

Feijoada actually has its roots in the pork and bean stews of Southern Europe (France, Italy, Spain)\, and those of Portugal in particular. What these European dishes and feijoada have in common is that they are all ways of cooking the less desirable cuts of pork in a thick bean stew.These recipes crossed the sea during colonisation and came to Brazil. The major change that resulted in the “Brazilianization” of feijoada was the use of black beans. After independence in 1822, there was a movement to establish the national identity of the country. Slowly the appeal, simplicity and cultural relevance of feijoada became evident. In the 1900s, feijoada became prominent on the menus in Rio, and spread rapidly across the country.

 

Today, the iconic dish, puts together the nation and other regional cuisines. It is a prominent meal at homes in Brazil, with its accessible use of the staple Brazilian black beans, and flavours influenced by many counties around the world. As a national symbol, feijoada parallels the narrative of Brazil as a mixed country, with different cultures, races, ethos and religions in the same pot.

 

 

Pizza

This one might surprise you, but yes, pizza – specifically rodizio style pizza restaurants – is outrageously good!!!! And it is great example of the adaptability of its people to loads of different flavours in one place.

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Luana and me, we ordered my favourite: black chocolate + white chocolate
+ strawberries. Another day we ordered half tomato and a half chocolate pizza.

 

What:

Pizza but not as we know it. The main feature of Brazilian pizzas is that they have very distinctive toppings. Whereas in Italy, the home of pizza, the toppings are scarce and often boil down to fine herbs and a few other ingredients. Brazilian pizzas are for sure less “conservative”, with an immense variety of different pizza toppings, and in many different ways.

 

At pizza restaurants in Brazil, a menu can be five pages long, or you could go to a rodizio de pizza restaurant and get all of the types in one go. This is a special restaurant in which the waiters come around with every type of pizza and offer it to you. You can choose to take as many pieces as you want and eat for as long as you want for a fixed price.

Here are some of the types you can get:

  • Savory: Chicken hearts, potato sticks, pork, stroganoff, shrimp. (Brazilian pizza tends to have little or no tomato sauce, or slices of tomato in place of sauce. In some parts of Brazil, ketchup is used as pizza sauce.)
  • Sweet: Banana and cinnamon, Brigadeiro chocolate, Romeu e Julieta – guava marmalade and white cheese, Ice cream
  •  …and basically any other meal you can think of, they have on a pizza.

 

Origin:

A wave of immigration during the industrial revolution of the early 20th century brought scores of Italians to Brazil. São Paulo now boasts the highest Italian population outside Italy, some 6.5 million including descendants, which is also Brazil’s largest pizza consuming state. These folks brought their pizza recipes to the city while leaving their strict rules behind. It’s been received and adapted so well that in Brazil there is even a Pizza Day, which started on the 10th of December 1985.

 

As a result, Pizza has few limits in Brazil, and why should it. It goes to represent how accepting they have been of other cultures. Not only that, but that they take the idea and improve upon it to have many different cultures influence and many different flavours together on one pizza.

P.S Brazilians always eat pizza with a >knife and fork.

P.P.S. Some other foods which I love here are: Hot dogs (they do it completely different), Churrasco, Bolo (there cake is all round great), and Polenta.

Well I hope to have shown you a small insight it to my life here, what I have learned, and what I love. For me, Brazil is a country of many groupings, and many flavours, all in one enriching pot.

My story so far:

Firstly, I am very sorry for not posting sooner. Here, it is easy to get lost in my new life, with learning Portuguese, working, and indulging in new activities. I promise to be writing more soon, but here is a brief summary of some things I have done.

October to November:

Looking back, this time was long, challenging, but necessary. I was struggling with my Portuguese and still very new to my work. However, I stayed positive and focused on the things that I could do and merely tried to be present and observe others. I learnt a lot by doing this, by not diving in too quickly, by aiding others first. Firstly, I learnt how my family lives here: having lunch as the main meal, the timetable of everybody, and talking much louder and openly than we do in England. Secondly, I learnt about my community: where all the roads lead, how to be safe, and how my English-ness can feel comfortable kissing everybody I meet to say Hi and Bye. Lastly, I learnt about my work: how a federal school and a school for persons with disabilities (APAE) functions, how much joy and learnings I can receive from the students, and how accepting the students with disabilities were with me, because they are used to people who weren’t perfect, like me with my ‘disability’ of not being able to speak with them.

Also, in this time my Capoeira skills came a long way. Also, I have been able to travel with them to Batizado events in other cities and states, including going back to Curitiba. We even held a batizado here in Garopaba, an event were we play, sing, dance, meet others, and students can graduate to the next belt. I was so happy to graduate to yellow-white belt at our event!! Here is that special moment below.

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December:
This month has really seen me come into my own. In the final week of November we had our visit from Abby Falik and afterwards Cohort Reconnect, where all the fellows met for a week. This was a great time for reflection on the craziness of the previous months. I also got meet my friends and celebrate my first Thanks Giving!

At APAE we had a great run up to the summer holidays and Christmas. It was funny to decorate the school with Christmas trees, pillows and red-green fabrics, all of which I associated with the cold weather before. But here we were, sweating in the high humidity, getting ready for the big Christmas show. In true Garopaban style, Papa Noel showed up on a bike, in flip flops and a straw hat wrapped in tinsel, though he was notably hot in his Santa gown. Never had I seen a school and staff just give, give, give and truly make all feel equal. They had even bought each student, of all ages, magnificent, personalised presents, which Santa gave out. All the classes did a song, skit or dance, I even did an impromptu dance performance with the professors. This was a great start to my summer here.

We started our independent travel this month. I was able to visit fellows living in Paranagua and have a great cultural exchange in seeing how others live in Brazil. I cherished my time with the other fellows there.

I also spent a great Christmas here. We did secret friend for present giving, because families here are much bigger than in England. Here they have the big meal and open presents on the 24th, which is very different for me as we do it on the 25th in England.

I am also looking forward to spending a hectic New Year here. I say hectic because we are in full swing tourist mode (funnily ironic since I am one too, though I think as a local now). I have been told that normally there is around 20,000 people here, but around this time it increases easily to 100,000 people. It is great to see so much happening, however, we suffer many water, electricity and money (at the local bank) shortages, not to mention the increasing dirtiness of the beach. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to watching the fireworks, on the beach, with 100,000 other people, all dressed in white, jumping over seven waves and making seven wishes, to bring in the New Year.

 

Post-ly Obrigados:

To all the fellows who have given me support during this time.

To my sister Alison for helping me through this time.

To Pr. Joao for being a great boss and great guy to work with.

To Kiko, Graci and all the staff and students at APAE for inspiring me.

To the Capoeira group, for being very welcoming family to me.

 

Feliz Ano Novo para tudo mundo.

Happy New Year to everyone.
 

Obrigada,

Beijos,

Tchau,

Sarah :D.

 

 

 

Sarah Murray