Brazilian culture and foods reflect those of the four obvious groups who make its population: native Brazilians, Portuguese and other Europeans, Africans, and Asians. For instance, the samba is a well known Brazilian dance with African roots. The bossa nova is a popular Brazilian music that blends jazz with local musical rhythms. Brazilians love sports, and their favorite one is soccer, which they name futbol -from the word football as this sport is known in Europe.
At a conventional Brazilian churrascaria, you are served an impressive selection of barbecued meat. The meats, cooked in an incredibly long skewer, are brought to the table and cut in sight. Your plate will be filled time after time until you throw in the towel.
Brazilians eat beef frequently as cattle are raised in several regions of Brazil. A favorite dish in southern Brazil is churrasco, long skewers full of grilled meats of all kinds. In America, restaurants serving Brazilian-style grilled meats called churrascarias have lately become quite fashionable. Other basic Brazilian foods include rice, black beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. Brazil's national dish is feijoada, a stew of beef, pork, sausage, and black beans. The stew cooks over a long time and it is served on special occasions with side dishes such as rice, orange slices, and shredded kale -a green leafy vegetable similar to Swiss chard.
The Africans imparted Brazilian cooking its piquant flavors and foods such as, coconut milk, and palm oil. They also named the malagueta peppers.
Native Brazilians brought many types of native fish and wild animals, sweet potatoes, corn porridge, hearts of palm, and manioc. Hearts of palm are the comestible core of the stem of the cabbage palm tree. The cabbage palm tree grows in many areas with tropical climate and it is Florida's official state tree. Manioc, also called cassava, is native to the Amazon rain forest. Once peeled, sweet manioc can be boiled and eaten like potatoes. It is also used to make flour.
The Portuguese heritage comes out in the Brazilian love affair with coffee and desserts with plenty of eggs and sugar. For example, quindim is an upside-down dessert with a glistening surface, made with eggs yolks, sugar, and grated coconut. Brazilian cuisine also incorporated dried fruits into their recipes following the Portuguese influence.
The Asian inspiration is particularly notable in the Southeast. Sushi -originally from Japan- is a dish common at all sorts of restaurants in Sao Paulo.
A dash of history
Millions of native Brazilians lived in the area for thousands of years prior to the landing in 1500 of a Portuguese sailor, Pedro Alvares Cabral, who claimed the land for Portugal. His real purpose was to reach India to load his ship with spices, silk, and some other valuables.
Lusitanian settlers migrated to coastal sections of Brazil, and a lot of them cultivated sugar cane. Over 4 million Africans arrived to Brazil between 1550 and 1850, as slaves to grow and process the sugar cane.
After sugar cane, farmers grew coffee beans, which carries on being an all important crop nowadays. The national language is still Portuguese.
Brazil shares borders with other ten South American countries. Ecuador and Chile are the only ones not to have a common border with Brazil.
Brazil possesses over 4,500 miles of sea shore on the Atlantic Ocean.
Northern Brazil houses the Amazon rain forest, a tropical region on the Amazon River.
Hot, wet weather stretches to the north from Rio de Janeiro about most of the year, with warm summers and cold winters to the south regions.
Manioc, cassava or yuca - starchy, tuberous and edible root. Toxic if eaten raw. it has tobe cooked or processed to eliminate toxines.
Malagueta chile - it is a fiercely hot capsicum pepper -as hot as tabasco- from Brazil. Not to be mistaken as melegueta pepper, a ginger-like spice from Africa.
The sugarloaf is a peak in Rio de Janeiro, not food.
The best way to understand their food is to try Brazilian recipes.