Introduction to Brazilian Cooking

The tradition of Brazilian cooking sits heavily on the shoulders of Brazilian women. They are where this culinary culture originated. They have been responsible for its birth, metamorphosis, and future. My only qualification for making these statements is a limited knowledge of its history and personal experience.

The European, African, Native Indian, and later Asian women each contributed, and as the cultures intermarried the culture lines blended and disappeared. Skin and eye colors ranged from the lightest to darkest hues in the span of a single family, accents were rounded out and dropped, and Brazilians were born and with them—Brazilian cuisine. Invisible women of history—lonely housewives, slaves, natives, immigrants, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, and those who were all of these despite never giving birth are immortalized in this cooking legacy. The extremes of poverty and abundance both have lent their hand in nudging on culinary creativity.

The descendants of these women have no time for strictness and rigidity in the kitchen. Their measuring tools are their senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, and instinct. Measuring cups often were originally a glass package for requeijão*. The rest is measured by regular silverware and a good eye. It is not unusual for baking instructions to include: bake until done. You'll know when. Or you'll learn. Recipes can be easily adjusted when you have a basic understanding of the chemistry involved in your dishes. For all their flexibility, however,  I would not encourage substitutions. Most recipes consist of basic and simple ingredients, but they are specific and crucial for the best and truest version of the recipe. 

Of course, technical recipes exist. In the words of Mark Twain, "all generalizations are false" after all. Modern recipes have adopted the metric system of measurements, and you can find beautiful cookbooks with specific directions.

Brazilians love their dairy and sugar. They refer to themselves as "ants" when it comes to sweets, and there is no shortage of recipes for candies most of which are easy, inexpensive, and classic favorites. Everything can be fixed with a can of condensed milk. Tropical fruits are taken for granted.

Brazilian food is traditionally very meat heavy, and there's also a whole side of cocktails that are a matter of national tradition. However, you won't find that here. Here you will find hearty vegetarian options that have been passed down through generations. You will also find the rich unhealthy food that makes you melt and say "Oh, that's good."

You ready?

*a milk product that tastes somewhat like cream cheese but has a consistency closer to sour cream).


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