Nov 28

Festa Crackers – a British-Brazilian Christmas cultural exchange

festa-crackers

 

 

There are people in life who attempt things that haven’t been done before; people who put self-belief before self-doubt to try something new. Imagine how boring the world would be without those people! Well I met just such a person a couple of weeks ago:

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Nov 25

Less change in Brazil

change-in-brazil

 

There’s a lot of talk about change in Brazil. And whether we’re discussing pulling people out of poverty through the Bolsa Família scheme, or the changes required to improve health and education for Brazil’s poorest communities, change is usually thought of as a positive thing. Well today I’d like to make the case for less change in Brazil. Here’s Exhibit A:

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Nov 14

Brazilian Body Slang

homem-camarao

Homem Camarão image source

 

People can be cruel can’t they? They can also be pretty hilarious and at times the line between the two can be oh so slender. Just the other day I was absentmindedly listening in on a conversation between Mrs Eat Rio and one of her friends (let’s call her Maria) when I heard something strange. The conversation was focussing on one of Maria’s ex-boyfriends who, according to the conversation, had been rather dull and a complete gym-freak. What Maria said next caught my attention – she described the guy as a camarão.

“A camarão?” I thought to myself, “He was a shrimp?”. What could that possibly mean? Was his skin a strange shade of orangey-pink? Or perhaps he was kind of stinky? Wrong! It turns out that this is a way of referring to someone who has a tasty body but an ugly face. So, so cruel…(but also made me chuckle).

This set me off wondering what other funny phrases there are to describe people’s body parts. Turns out there are quite a few:

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Nov 07

Should I tip in Brazil?

nova-capela

The longest serving waiter at Nova Capela being very good-natured about having a camera in his face!

 

A question I’m often asked by people visiting Rio is: “Should I tip in Brazil? If so, how much?”.  It’s usually North Americans who ask this question and I’m sure that is due to the strong tipping culture in that part of the world. Well, the short answer is “For restaurants, yes – 10%”. The more helpful answer is “Yes, but the standard 10% is usually added to your bill without you having to think about it”.

This ‘not having to think about it’ aspect of tipping in Brazil got Mrs Eat Rio and I into trouble last time we were out of the country. We were approaching the end of our trip to Mexico (where a gratuity is usually left off the bill) and as it was our last night in Oaxaca before returning to Mexico City, we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy meal at Casa Oaxaca. It was a wonderful night and all the way home we chatted about the delicious food, the beautiful design/décor and the friendly, attentive service. As we got back to our hotel room, I stopped dead: We forgot to leave a tip! It was too late to go back and we were leaving first thing the next morning, so we were in a tricky situation. I gave them a call and they told me (very graciously) not to worry about it and thanked me for calling. I decided the least I could do is give them a recommendation, so here it is. If you get the chance, go!

casa-oaxaca

Delicious morsels from chef Alejandro Ruiz of Casa Oaxaca. Here’s what Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants had to say: “The flavour combinations are often surprisingly striking with Ruiz never shying away from big-hitting palate punches. Food is rarely as refreshingly honest as it is here.”

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Oct 28

Brazilian Recipes: Baião de Dois

baiao-de-dois-ingredients

A few of the things you’ll be needing for today’s recipe for Baião de Dois.

 

Today I am stepping into dangerous territory – I’m going to tell you about one of the classic recipes of Northeast Brazil. Why dangerous? Well try to imagine a beloved recipe from your hometown/region. Now imagine that some idiot from another country comes bumbling along and tries to tell everyone how to make it, but of course the bumbling idiot gets it so, so wrong. So before I get myself into an on-line version of this classic culinary car crash from Keith Floyd, I will quickly attempt to pre-empt outraged complaints by saying that this is just my way of doing it and I accept that true Nordestinos may do it differently.

OK, so with that pusillanimous pre-emptive apology out of the way, let’s get on with it shall we? Baião (sounds a bit like ‘buy-OHWN’) is a style of music and dance from Northeast Brazil (if you’d like some extra Nordestino atmosphere, why not have Luiz Gonzaga sing Baião in the background while you read the rest of the post?). So if “Baião de Dois” is a dance for two, then who are the principal protagonists in this culinary caper? You guessed it – Mr Rice and Mrs Beans:

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Oct 18

Manguinhas – another reason to visit your local feira

mango-manga

 

Here’s a little factiod for you: while many fruits have evolved bright colours to attract birds (birds have excellent colour vision), mangoes are generally a dull greenish-red colour because they have evolved to be eaten (and therefore distributed) by fruit bats and other animals that rely more on smell than sight to find food. See? 3 years studying zoology wan’t a complete waste was it? According to my old ecology lecturer, we silly humans have spent the last 100+ years attempting to breed bright, colourful mangoes which appeal to the average human shopper.

There are mango trees (mangueiras) all over Rio. In fact here’s the view out of my window right now:

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Oct 13

Photo post: Lapa Sandwich

Lapa-sandwich

 

I never know quite how to feel when I see this scene in Lapa. Part of me is happy that the little fellow survived, another part of me feels sad that these huge, ugly blocks were put here in the first place.

 

 

Oct 08

Soups and Stews in Botafogo: Feijão, Angu e Cia

feijao-angu-cia

 

A few months after I arrived in Rio, I got my first job. I was working half way along one of Botafogo’s main streets, Rua Voluntários de Pátria. Back then, life in Rio was a bit scary and bewildering, full of lessons to be learned: how to catch a bus, how to get a waiter’s attention and how to have lunch.

That last item might seem strange (what is there to learn about lunch?), but I soon found that my London lunching tradition (a quick sandwich eaten at my desk) wasn’t going to work in Brazil. The idea of eating at one’s desk seems to be rather repulsive to Brazilians, and on this question I have come to see their point. I soon realised that I needed to find somewhere outside of the office to eat. I took to the streets of Botafogo in search of something quick, convenient and delicious. Here’s what I found:

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Oct 01

Recipe: Bolinhos de Abóbora com Carne Seca

Bolinhos-de-feijoada

Bolinhos de feijoada from Aconchego Carioca

 

Did I ever tell you how much I love bolinhos? When I was first introduced to these little balls of joy, I assumed the word meant just that: little balls. In fact bolinho is the diminutive of bolo, the Portuguese word for cake, so really these are ‘little cakes’, but a better translation would be ‘fritter’ or ‘croquette’. Whatever you call them, bolinhos are hugely popular in Brazil. There are quite a few bars in Rio that owe pretty much all their popularity to their bolinhos.

The photo above shows bolinhos de feijoada from Aconchego Carioca. This is a bolinho version of Brazil’s best-loved dish, feijoada: black bean purée on the outside, shredded couve and bacon in the middle, all encased in a delightfully crispy shell. Along with a helping hand from Claude Troisgros, these bolinhos really put this restaurant on the map. Other bars and restaurants in Rio for bolinho lovers to visit include Bracarense in Leblon and Bar do Gomez in Santa Teresa:

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Sep 23

Coconuts asking for directions

HortiFruti-Coco

“Stop being stubborn and ask someone for directions”

 

Ah, good old Hortifruti adverts. Whether they’re making excellent fruit-based movie puns or racist controversial accent-based puns, they always give me something to think about. Their latest offering covers relatively safe ground – speaking for myself, I know I’m often guilty of being a cabeça dura (literally ‘hard head’, though ‘stubborn’ would be a better translation) when it comes to asking for directions.

But people with cabeça dura living in Rio should really take Mrs Drinking Coconut’s advice – Cariocas still amaze me with their willingness to help out when someone asks for directions. It’s not so much that they’re prepared to help that I find surprising; it’s the lengths to which they’ll go. Imagine yourself in the following scenarios in whichever city you happen to call home:

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