Brazil, the multi-ethnic giant of South America, is a land of exciting contrasts. It is home to the Pantanal, the world's largest wetlands, the great Amazon River and tropical rain forest, world famous beaches, and the mighty Iguacu Falls. For the most part, only the coastal regions are densely populated. It is not surprising then that the national cuisine of Brazil is more a collection of unique regional ones; and that certain exotic regional fruits and fish are hardly known elsewhere in the country.
The extraordinary cuisine of Brazil is an amalgam of the cooking heritage of three disparate groups of people: the native Indians, the conquering Portuguese and the African slaves they brought to work in the sugar cane fields. The distinct contribution of each is still apparent in many Brazilian dishes today.
Of course, certain dishes took on a new "Brazilian" identity. The Portuguese added their own stamp to several Indian preparations and in turn, the Africans altered some of the dishes of both the Indians and the Portuguese. They used foods and cooking styles brought from their homelands or brought their own recipes and changed them, using local ingredients. It was the African cooks in the colonial kitchens of the sugar cane barons, however, who provided the strongest influence in generating what would be considered a Brazilian cuisine.
European immigrants, Germans, Italians and Poles, as well as Japanese and other groups, came in huge numbers much later. These homesteaders, however, had little lasting impact on the Brazilian style of cooking.
Customs & Hospitality
Brazilians are outgoing, fun-loving people. Friends and acquaintances are greeted with kisses, more kisses and big hugs.
While Brazilians eat a light breakfast, the customary complimentary one in hotels for tourists often is an elaborate spread: several varieties of fruits and fruit juices, cheeses, breads, cereals, cakes, eggs and meat. In restaurants, breakfast, or cafe da manha, generally is served from 7 to 10 AM.
The main meal of the day is lunch, or almoco, which is served from about 11:30 AM to 3 PM. Dinner, or jantar, is served from 7 to 11 PM. In metropolitan areas Brazilians dine late. If you arrive much before 10 PM on the weekends, you'll probably be in the company of other tourists!
Copyright: Photos & Recipes are from "Eat Smart in Brazil: How to Decipher the Menu, Know the Market Foods & Embark on a Tasting Adventure," by permission of the publisher, Ginkgo Press, Inc. Text courtesy authors: Joan & David Peterson.