Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Foods of Brasil - Lunch

For Brasilians, lunch (almoço) is the most important meal of the day. Most businesses close for two hours beginning sometime between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to accommodate their workers. Lunch involves not only eating, but in most cases, a short nap or siesta after eating, especially for the harder working laborors.

Most Brasilians have favorite restaurants close to their work where they go every day for a substantial buffet consisting of numerous salads, vegetables, starches, one or two pasta dishes, and meats. For example, a normal buffet will most always have cold beets, green beans, onions, carrots, broccoli, watercress, and endive or escarole, and other seasonable vegetables.

Meats would include chicken either grilled or baked, some type of beef or pork dish, and some type of fish. Sides would include french fries (always!), rice (always!) potato salad (always!) and possibly fried or cooked yucca root. Small restaurants will include a dessert such as pudding or jello in the price of the buffet. Larger restaurants will have a sampling of desserts including tortes, puddings and a special dessert made with tapioca and wine called sagu de vinho, which is very popular.

The price for lunch in most establishments is either a flat rate or by the kilo. Either way, it is a very reasonable (cheap) price normally(anywhere from $3 to $6 in American money) for more food than you can eat. Don’t expect to be served iced tea though. I can’t tell you about the big cities of Brasil, but in the smaller towns where I lived, iced tea is non-existent.

One great thing about Brasil, wherever you go for lunch (or dinner), you will be treated to something free either before or after your meal. It is usually an aperitif such as flavored cachaça (sugar cane alcohol), or some other liquor. After the meal, you may take a small coffee espresso or you will receive a candy.

There are the usual lanchonetes for a quick hamburger and fries and a sucos naturais (natural juice) or Coke. Lots of Coca-cola is consumed in Brasil, and beer, of course. If you order a hamburger (x-salada--pronounced shees sa-lah-dah), beware, it is not going to look very much like what you are used to getting in the US. It comes in a wrapper and it consists of a patty of beef, a slice of cheese, a slice of ham, some lettuce, tomato and onion – are we good so far? Well, this is where the salada comes in—they pile on a bunch of canned vegetables, like corn, peas and carrots. Then Brasilians slather it with mayonnaise and ketchup from little packs they cut open either with tiny scissors or their teeth, whichever is handiest. Every bite of the burger has a dollop of ketchup and/or mayonnaise on it. You won’t usually find containers of ketchup on the tables, just little packets of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise.

After thinking about it, there are a lot more differences between the way Americans and Brasilians take their meals, so I may devote one column to just that subject. We’ll see,

Till then, Tchau (pronounced Ciao)!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Liquor May be Quicker, but in Brasil, it's always Beer Time

Since it's Friday, I thought I'd celebrate by saying TGIF and giving you a little lesson on the libations found in Southern Brasil.

A famous drink in Brasil is called the caipirinha (kai-pee-reen-ya). The ingredients are lots of lime, lots of sugar, and lots of cachaca (ka-sha-sah), which is a liquor made out of sugar cane juice. (today's video is of a Brit making a caipirinha--hope I don't offend any Brasilian friends, but in order for us Americans to understand how the drink is made, it's better to learn in English). This drink will knock you on your arse, so be careful. Some Brasilians prefer to drink their lime and sugar with vodka, in which case it becomes a caipiroska (kai-pee-ross-ka). Almost as wicked as the caipirinha, unless the cachaca is a local home brew, then watch out. This is hands down, the best drink in the summertime. Brasilians will order one caipirinha at dinner and pass it around so everyone can take a sip before eating. It's a great way to start the meal.

Wine exists in Brasil and they have some nice wines from the center of Santa Catarina state. You can find a very good producer of wine on the drive from Jaragua do Sul to Barra Velha called Sinuelo. They have the traditional sweet red wine from the muscadine grape, which I do not prefer, but they also have some very good dry red and white wines. Some of the better restaurants in larger cities such as Curitiba (Coo-ri-chi-bah) will offer wines from Argentina and Chile, both of which are a bit superior to Brasilian wines.

As for beer (cerveja--sir-veh-zha), it comes very cold and in very big bottles--600 ml. Brasilians will get quite annoyed if their beer is not cold, cold, cold. In fact, the beer coolers in Brasil have a display on the outside of the door indicating the inside temperature of the cooler so everyone can see that the beer inside is cold. Everyone drinks beer in Brasil from kids to seniors. No wonder the Oktoberfest in Blumenau is the second largest in the world, coming in slightly behind Germany's. See my post on Blumenau if you want to check out exactly how big that festival is.

TGIF everyone! Tchau.