Food Struggles

Disclaimer- I am by no means a Brazilian food expert and I have not been able to experiment all of the local cuisine. This is just a small window into the severe struggles and mouthwatering successes that I have had.

Wondering what some unique foods down here might be? There are plenty.

A common sweet is brigadeiro, a soft, delectable dessert made of chocolate, condensed milk and butter. Brigadeiro also makes its way into candies or onto the many cakes eaten at any time of the day. That’s right, contrary to American custom, people in Brazil find breakfast as good of a time as any to chow down on some cake.

Another food found in Brazil is Pao de Quejo, or cheese bread. It’s name is pretty self explanatory, and trust me it tastes much better than it sounds.

It is quite common to see people walking in the street drinking mate. This is a type of caffeinated tea that can be made with hot or cold water and has its own set of customs rooted in Brazilian culture.

Another drink which I find much more appetizing is caldo de cana. This is simply the juice freshly squeezed from sugar cane and normally flavored with a bit of lime juice. How I shall miss it.

In the United States we have grilling and in Brazil they have churrascos. A churrasco consists of cooking lots of meat, usually chicken, chicken hearts, steak and sausage over a charcoal fire.

Along with the meat is usually a salad, a Brazilian version of garlic bread, farofa, and mayonesa. Wait a minute, what’s farofa? Farofa is hard to explain but it is sort of a suped-up flour made of mandioca root(kind of like a potato) which goes along with other food. I mentioned mayonesa above as well. This is the Brazilian version of potato salad, but contrary to what you were probably expecting it contains no mayonnaise. The substance they use instead of mayonnaise is made by beating egg yolks and oil together.

I could go on forever about Brazilian food, but let’s look at my particular food experiences for a minute. My first two weeks in Brazil were very easy for me in terms of food. My family was more Americanized and I was introduced to some Brazilian food but also had pizza, ice cream, granola bars, yogurt and cereal. I was comfortable.

My permanent host family, with whom I moved in with after those first two weeks, has been an entirely different story. For me, they represent a more typical Brazilian diet. The hardest thing for me has been the lack of variety. We do not have a refrigerator and cupboards stocked full food. The only non perishables which are kept around are sugar, flour, rice, beans, chocolate powder,,coffee and mandioca flour. On occasion the cupboards might contain milk, wheat flour or condensed milk. That is a huge difference from an American kitchen. There are no Cheetos, pop tarts or popcorn to be found; in my house at least.

For breakfast the options are fruit or bread in the form of a sandwich (with just cheese and meat) or toast. For lunch and dinner rice and beans are ALWAYS present except for when plain pasta replaces the rice. These are accompanied with chicken (no we don’t eat nuggets or patties), or beef in the form of steak or liver. For my host family, the best parts of the chicken are the feet and neck. Yup, my host mom is always crunching away on those little chicken toes. My host mother does not like pork, therefore I have only had a pork chop once during these seven months. They have added potatoes to the menu more often now, to accommodate me. Well, we do vary meals a bit, but 90% of the time the foods above are what’s up for grabs.

Another struggle has been living on very little sugar. For those of you who are unaware, Americans consume the most sugar per person of any nation in the world. So living in Brazil with a host mom who doesn’t really like sweet things has been a real struggle. I have been living with ice cream withdrawal for 6.5 months now. It’s not anything anyone should have to go through. Pure torture. I’m convinced that fruit has been the only thing keeping my blood sugar from dropping to a dangerous level.

Some quick reminders for all of you back home. Value your milk and cereal kids. In Brazil your milk comes in boxes which don’t need refrigeration and cereal is nearly nonexistent. Value your ice cream. Don’t take that Oreo, mint, or snickers ice cream for granted because Brazilian grocery stores just don’t have it. Now that I’m talking about it I could go for some Reese’s, blueberry pancakes and maple syrup, bacon, Mexican food, hot cocoa and good yogurt right now as well. That’s just the beginning of it.

P.S.- I tried cow stomach the other day.

P.S.S-I wasn’t a big fan.