The sweet and savory culture of Brasil

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Photo courtesy of Isabela Lima

Before I was born, my parents made the life-changing decision to move to the United States. This journey wasn’t an easy one, my dad came over first to the US with only $1,000 in his pocket, searching for a new and better life for his family waiting for him back at home. After settling and finding a new home in New York, my parents have made sure ever since to only talk to both my siblings and me in Portuguese at home. 

Because I was raised in a Brasilian household my entire life, I was able to grow up eating many delicious delicacies, like pão de queijos, pastéis and brigadeiros. 

Pão de queijo, meaning “cheese bread” in Portuguese, is an amazing snack made with tapioca flour and parmesan cheese; literally heaven in a ball! Pastel, on the other hand, is a thin flaky pastry dough filled with cheese, meat or both. The most popular dessert in Brasil, the brigadeiro, is essentially a chocolate truffle made with condensed milk, butter and a whole lot of chocolate. 

In my family, we cherish the Brasilian food culture because of how it brings us all closer together over a meal. When my whole family and I flew back to Brasil, both sides of my family joined together for a huge churrasco, or “brasilian barbeque,” to celebrate coming home after four years. At this barbeque, we all came together to make farofa (toasted yucca root flour with smoked meat), feijoada (black bean stew with pork) and various cuts of smoked meat. 

This is one of my favorite memories because it was so beautiful to see everyone laughing with each other, sharing stories, opening presents and being together in the same moment. It’s the simple things, like sitting down with my family over a meal, that make memories like this one worthwhile.

Moreover, when I think about the food culture that embodies Brasil, various street festivals and summer celebrations come to mind. In Santa Cruz, Brasil, where my mom’s side of the family lives, there is a popular festival called Festa Junina that happens every summer evening in June. Festa Junina brings whole towns together to celebrate the season of harvest and the saints; mainly Saint Anthony, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Peter. 

At this festival, different street foods like bolo de fubá (sweet corn cake), paçoca (sweet peanut candy) and milho cozido (corn on the cob) make a huge appearance. There is live folk-like music, brilliant fireworks and regional dances, like the quadrilha, performed throughout the night. When I was little, I distinctly remember dressing up in the same “caipira” style of clothing, basically in pig-tail braids, painted on freckles and makeup, and a brightly patterned dress, dancing the night away. Everyone makes it a priority to join in with the festivities. Personally, I have found this to be a major difference between the American and Brasilian cultures. In general, Americans are usually busy living a fast-paced lifestyle, eating meals at different times, and making their jobs a priority, while on the other hand, Brasilians make it their priority to slow down what they are doing in their lives, come together to eat sit-down meals with their families, and celebrate these kinds of festivities with so much joy and gusto in what their traditions are that it truly is a beautiful sight to see.

Brasilians sure know how to throw a party! Overall, in my life, without these cultural foods and festivals bringing my family and me closer together, I wouldn’t be the proud Brasilian I am today!

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