The reason I started Eat Rio



Next month Eat Rio will be 3 years old. During this period I’ve written over 400 posts and 48 static pages; you guys have left more than 4,500 comments, and I’ve filtered out almost 2,000 spam comments (if I ever do inherit 22.9 million dollars from a long lost uncle in Nigeria, I’m almost certainly going to miss out). The Eat Rio Facebook page has almost 1,000 likes (come on people!) and the Eat Rio Twitter account has almost 1,000 followers (are you trying to torture me?).

Now I don’t want to get too misty eyed here but, for me at least, Eat Rio has meant more than just the numbers. Writing this blog has pushed me to investigate and learn more about this great city. I’ve also made lots of friends through the blog, had several of those mythical ‘free lunches’ and just recently I was able to escape a less than satisfying job and switch career paths completely. Not bad for 3 years!

It feels like an age ago now, but I still remember why I started this blog in the first place.

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Feira das Yabás


The home of Portela samba school is here in Madureira, Zona Norte. See from the other side here!


Carnival in Rio means different things to different people. Some look forward to the blocos which make up the Carnaval de Rua (street carnival), while others just want to get the hell out of town until it’s all over. Then there is another group for whom carnival is all about the Sambódromo and the competition between the samba schools. The people in this latter group often support a particular samba school in a way more commonly associated with football fans.

Personally I can’t pretend that it bothers me much who wins, but in the same way that I’ve picked a football team to nominally support (Botafogo), I’ve also picked a samba school – Portela. And the main reason I picked Portela was that it shares a home with Feira das Yabás.

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Bezerra da Silva – Samba and the Malandro


Every man in his area, Every monkey on his branch, Every cockerel in his yard, Every king in his deck


I only became aware of the subject of today’s post recently, when I passed that piece of street art (above) during carnival. It’s a nice piece of work and the guy has a nice looking face – then I saw the lyrics and decided it was time to find out more (starting with what a baralho is – a deck of playing cards).

Born in 1927 in Recife, José Bezerra da Silva grew up singing a North/Northeastern style of music called Coco. In 1942 he moved to Rio and in the 1950s found work as a session musician. His first record was released in 1969 and he went on to record 30 albums over the following 4 decades. He became particularly renowned for a style of samba known as partido alto.


Malandros and Malandragem

It seems impossible to say much about Bezerra without mentioning the term malandro. A malandro is someone who lives by malandragem, a lifestyle of hustling, petty crime and idleness. It wasn’t long after I got to Rio that I first came across this word malandro. Fittingly enough, a colleague was warning me about wandering down the wrong street in Lapa – “Watch out for malandros” she said. I say ‘fitting’ because, in Rio there is a strong association between malandros and Lapa.

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Rio Carnaval 2014 – Off to Paquetá!


Arriving on Paquetá, we were struck by the tranquil atmosphere due to the lack of cars and motorbikes.


Well, I’m officially in a full-on carnival state of mind! Last Saturday, some friends and I went to a bloco called Pérola de Guanabara (Pearl of Guanabara) which was held on the island of Paquetá. Paquetá is a small island in Guanabara Bay that you can visit by taking a 1:15hr ferry ride from Praça 15. It was my first visit to the island so I was already pretty excited, but to combine it with my first bloco of 2014 was an extra bonus. Little did I know that the highlight of this special day would be the ferry ride home!

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Vinícius de Moraes

When I get to the end of my life, I hope I’ll be able to look back and say that I lived a little. I guess things are going pretty well so far – I’ve travelled more than most (and had scrapes and adventures along the way), I’ve had some interesting jobs and I’ve met a good number of weird and wonderful people.

But no matter how interesting my life turns out to be, I doubt I’ll come close to the subject of today’s post. This Brazilian was born in 1913 and died in 1980 and during his 66 years he worked as a diplomat, musician, composer, poet and playwright. He married 8 times, had 4 kids, wrote a play that was adapted into an Oscar winning film and was central to the development of a new and hugely successful style of music. Oh yeah, and he co-wrote the second most recorded pop song of all time.

In case you haven’t guess yet, I’m talking about this guy:


Vinícius de Moraes – a man of many talents.

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Paulinho da Viola

Phew – Friday at last! It’s been a busy couple of weeks hence the paucity of posts, and after yesterday’s slightly ‘dense’ offering, I thought I’d follow up today with something a little lighter.

On my way to work this morning I was sharing a bus with one of those people who play music through the speaker on their phone. Oh man, who doesn’t hate that?

Anyway, it turns out I was the winner because this guy’s selfish behaviour prompted me to play my own music (through headphones, claro) and I stumbled across a joyous piece of music by this man:


Paulinho da Viola. Doesn’t he just look like a really nice guy? I know they say it’s wrong to judge people by appearances, but it doesn’t seem so bad when you’re making a positive judgement, right?


From an early age, Paulinho was surrounded by legends of Brazilian music such as Pixinguinha and Jacob do Bandolim. In turn Paulinho went on to become a legend in his own right, famed for his sophisticated melodies and gentle singing voice. His career as a Sambista, composer and musician has spanned 50 years and during this time he has released 27 albums and toured worldwide. On top of all that, by all accounts he is a really good guy.

OK, so back to that song that cheered me on my way to work. It’s a simple, cheerful tune though, somewhat typically of Brazilian music, the lyrics tell a rather sad tale of a guy who has decided he won’t play his guitar anymore because someone has made him unhappy. Well, the words might be sad, but listening to this makes me happy! I hope you like it too – have a great weekend.

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Video post: How to samba

Do you know how to samba? You should not be surprised to know that this clueless and somewhat awkward gringo doesn’t have a clue, so you can calm down if you thought I was was going to show you a video of me giving it a try.

Contrary to popular opinion, not all Brazilians are passistas (expert samba dancers) either. In fact I’ve seen a few Brazilian bloggers who have posted the following:



I find this message comforting. If not all Brazilians know how to samba then it seems perfectly acceptable that I don’t have a clue either.

However, I have just spent a few minutes checking out some instructional videos and it turns out it may not be completely impossible. Take a look at this clear demonstration:


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Carnival Starts

Carnival, for me, has officially started! I know I’m a bit behind on this (pre-carnival blocos have been running for a few weeks now), but this weekend I made up for lost time by visiting two!

On Saturday I ventured over to the lovely Praia Vermelha, just next to the cable car that takes you to the top of Pão de Açúcar. It was a nice little bloco – nothing too crazy and the scenery was gorgeous.

Praia Vermelha

Just back from the beach itself, there is a large open area – perfect for carnival parading.


On Sunday I decided to go a little further afield for a much larger bloco – Timoneiros da Viola in the the North Zone neighbourhood of Madureira. I went to the same pre-carnival bloco last year and it was great!

Apparently the organisers had made a slight miscalculation when hiring the carnival truck – it was too high for some of the cables that stretched across the route that the bloco was meant to take (do they really deserve to be called “organisers” if they make a mistake like that?). Anyway, that didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits (the ‘dampening’ came later…)

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Cow Hand Soup

Last Saturday some friends and I went to a kind of fundraiser for one of Rio’s top Samba Schools, Portela. It was pretty cool actually, there were a bunch of different bands playing up on a stage, there were plates piled high with feijoada and there were ice buckets full of beer. Oh yes, and there was some serious heat!

Portela Feijoada

A day of samba, cerveja, feijoada and fun!


With the temperatures up around 40°C (104°F), the ice cold beers slipped down very easily (along with a cheeky caipirinha or two). Eventually the sun sank, our boozy afternoon became evening, and I started to experience that special kind of hunger that comes after drinking a little too much.

Luckily for me, Mrs Eat Rio’s appetite tends to be well aligned with mine, so we decided to leave the stage area and go in search of sustenance. We wandered past stalls selling beers and caipirinhas and then we saw the sign.

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Não fala que grava!

I’ve mentioned a few of my favourite Brazilian albums in recent months – music by artists such as Jorge BenJoão Gilberto and Novos Baianos to name a few. There are a lot of other artists still to talk about, but one name is particularly conspicuous by its absence.

Antônio Carlos Jobim

Also known as Tom Jobim, this colossus of Brazilian music is known as the main force behind the creation of Bossa Nova and one of the most talented and successful composers of the 20th century. You can’t mention the man without also mentioning his most famous composition, Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema). The original (Portuguese) lyrics are so much nicer than the English version that it’s reason enough to learn Portuguese in itself!

For me, it seems like this subject is almost to big to cover – I don’t know enough about him and besides, you can get a better run-down of this man and his story on Wikipedia.

Tom Jobim

Tom Jobim (sounds kind of like Tohn zho-been). The man credited (along with João Gilberto) with the creation of Bossa Nova.


So instead of trying to cover Jobim’s entire career, I’m going to focus on just a single song.

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