Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Meals and Food Differences

Another difference between the two countries-USA and Brazil-is in the way people eat their meals.  Both countries use the staple breakfast, lunch and dinner, but differ in what people eat and how much. Although you will find in most major Brazilian cities restaurants with international cuisines, people are less adventurous in what they eat. Breakfast, for example, is usually café au lait with bread and butter. Slight variations are black coffee, toast with jelly or cheese and fruit. Some may eat a pastry or the famous Brazilian cheese rolls (pão de queijo, see a recipe of this delicious appetizer here:  http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/brazilian-cheese-bread-pao-de-queijo/Detail.aspx. Few people are in the habit of eating cereal for breakfast, and even fewer eat bacon or eggs. I remember on my first job in America how horrified I was to see people drinking coca-cola for breakfast.

Lunch in Brazil is heavier than dinner, and is usually composed of hot foods. A piece of meat (beef, chicken or fish), rice and beans and some salad (usually lettuce and tomato) are the most common type of lunch meal you can find in any household. For many people rice and beans are part of every meal, even if they add another starch such as potatoes. Entré salads are not common in Brazil. Salads are usually smaller and offered as a side dish.

Dinner is usually around 7pm and is closer to what Americans may eat for lunch. Some people prepare a soup with a sandwich, others eat leftovers from lunch.  If you consider the fact that it is not recommended to eat heavily in the evening, the Brazilian way of eating makes more sense. Many European countries, specially Eastern Europe, have a similar tradition. However, their main mean of the day is around 4 PM. People come home from work and prepare their one hot meal of the day. A small snack may be eaten before bed.

Contrary to what many Americans may think, Brazilian food is not very spicy. Many people somehow think Brazilian food is similar to Mexican, but in reality the only similarity is that Mexicans also use a lot of rice and beans in their meals. You will find spicier fare in Bahia, a state in Eastern Brazil, which is heavily influenced by African traditions.  Another misconception is that Brazilians eat exotic animals. In reality, beef is the most popular meat, followed by chicken, pork and fish. Lamb is not commonly eaten (fancy restaurants now offer lamb chops) and neither is veal.

The most famous Brazilian dish is still the feijoada (FAY-ZHO-AHDA): http://www.maria-brazil.org/feijoada.htm. The story behind the feijoada is well known. In Colonial times, Brazilian slaves were reserved the cheapest parts of the animals. Black beans were abundant, so they would mix the pig’s feet and head with the black beans and cook it until tender. Nowadays, feijoada is made with more noble pork parts such as pork loin and sausages, but you will still find places around the country that add the pig’s feet.

Each Brazilian region (Brazil is divided between North, Northeast, Southeast, Centerwest and Southern regions) has its own famous culinary staples. There are also many tasty dishes made with fish and seafood, some of them using a specific oil from Brazil: dendé oil (ahttp://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/pages/dendeoil) and coconut milk, very popular in the Brazilian Northeast and North.

The Brazilian south is famous for the “churrasco”, big pieces of meat in a stick that is barbecued slowly in rock salt and served in slices. They are actually a fancier “all you can eat” syle of eatery. It has been amusing for me to see how many “churrascarias” have popped up in every corner in America, many from famous Brazilian chains such as “Fogo de Chao”, “Chima”, “Plataforma” and “Porcão”. They are not cheap (around 50 dollars per person) and are always crowded with Americans who want to eat until they pass out.

Your blogger’s hint: when you go to a churrascaria, avoid filling up with all the carbs or the salad bar. Leave space for the main treat: the picanha (PEE-KUN-YA).  The picanha is a Brazilian cut of top sirloin, and will be the juiciest and most tender meat you will eat.  The servers will certainly try to bring the cheaper meats around first, so avoid the sausages and chicken and ask for Picanha, medium well, sliced thin. It’s heaven.

Sweets in Brazil are very sweet. Incredibly sweet. When I moved to the USA I found some deserts not sweet enough, but now if I try any Brazilian sweet I find it hard to eat too much of it (and I have a very sweet tooth!). Brazilian food is also more fresh, less processed and for some reason, tastier than their American counterpart. Cold cuts and breads are infinitely better. I recently read that Brazilian dishes from the Northern part of the country are becoming a hit amongst the world of haute cuisine (many different fishes, spices and roots).

As usual though, times have changed in Brazil and I am sure the American influence is still working its magic. Aside from copying TV shows such as “Survivor”, “The Apprentice” and “Dancing with the stars”, Brazilians may also be copying the unhealthful eating habits of many Americans, which can be seen in the growing number of overweight people.

I am wondering if all the McDonalds in Brazil offer ham and sausage sandwiches for breakfast. That is something that may have changed during all the years I have lived in the U.S.

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July 21, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Lifestyle | 6 Comments