By: C. Schulter
Brazil is a country with a very strong national identity. Of course, as every other country we have stereotypes that people instantly think of when they hear “Brazil”, like soccer and samba, friendly people and good food. I would say that of all of those, good food is absolutely the most remarkable one, or it should be. Brazilian cuisine is really a piece of art. Due to the country’s history we have a wide range of options within our culinary. Allow me to take you back on time and remind you of some bits of our history while we see some of the main influences in Brazilian cuisine.
Everything started at 1500 as many affirm, but the 22nd of April of that year was just the arrival of the Portuguese in this territory we now know as Brazil. Before them there were many different indigenous tribes here living in their own way. These tribes mastered through the years the cultivation of crops and root vegetables, and hunting and fishing. Indigenous people were the first to influence our cuisine, with recipes that used corn and cassava to make cakes, flour, and very typical dishes called “canjica” and “pamonha”. Their hunting and fishing abilities also provided us with dishes like “moquecas” and “Pirão” which are cooked over a base of fish soup.
After such a great start it is difficult to imagine how it could get any better, so let me tell you our cuisine developed beautifully. The Portuguese people brought with them many traditions that we keep to this day, we might be an independent country, but our tables are certainly not, as famous rice and beans came from them, although they did not eat it almost every meal and didn’t cook them as we do (which adds a lot of flavor and personality to this dear dish of ours). From soups to sweets, Portuguese cuisine influenced ours, but like the good Brazilians we are, we managed to adapt and improve recipes brought by them.
As we are speaking of the colonization process, we can’t ignore the many years of slavery that were perpetuated for way too much time in our land. There are no words to express the hardship of these years, and with respect and immense appreciation I write about the African influence in our cuisine. The African population enslaved in Brazil was responsible for the creation of one of our most popular traditional dishes, the “feijoada”. Using only beans and cheap offcuts of pork, wanted by their masters, they created a delicious stew. And this recipe has been lightly altered many times, aiming to enhance the flavor of this delicacy.
Later, we had the great miscegenation, where many other people from different countries migrated to Brazil and along with them, they brought bits of culture that were put together to created something more similar to what we know today. Now we have Portuguese, African, Hispanic, Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, Chinese, Indigenous and so many other influences in our culinary. Brazilian cuisine is like a very complex puzzle, that has been carefully built through the years and fortunately is still not over, which leaves us with a lot of room to explore what this gastronomic world can be.