Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Healthy Eating in Brazil

The first thing I learned in Brazil was that you could find good food anywhere...just don't let your bad grasp of Portuguese indicate you'll find a crappy luncheonette just next store to a primo one.

I giggled while taking this picture....until the owner came over, and badgered me as to why, if I really was a tourist,  I would take pictures of a commercial property instead of something beautiful...he insisted I was casing the joint. the United States, we focus and fret about our waistlines, and arteries, and just how many grams of fat and how many calories we eat....and yet, studies tell us that we are still growing heavier. I don't need a study to tell me that, a day at the beach is confirmation enough...and while I appreciate having a good sense of self-esteem, I will offer that at 300 lbs, it's time to trade that bikini in for a one-piece.....but as usual, I digress. My point is that I noticed the Brazilian people are all relatively thin, and live to old they must eat lettuce all day, right?

Wrong. In fact, besides all the beer being consumed all day long, their diet consists of a lot of meat and cheese. And I'm not talking lean meat...I'm talking organs, fat, skin and everything else along with it. My observation is that they all walk more than we do, and are more active, and watch very little television...which appears to offset all the good eating.

This place, for example, is so popular that they had to expand to double their size to a half a city block in the last 2 years. It was packed when I was there, and people were chatting and enjoying the food and drink. Which consisted of only 2 items. Pork Rinds, and Beer. That's all they sell. The beer, as I have mentioned, is ice cold in coolers that monitor temperature.

The rinds come 3 styles that you never see in the USA...all with varying levels of meat attached, all crispy, and all incredibly tasty...Diane, who would never eat a pork rind here, couldn't get enough of them.

Another day, we dined at the restaurant of a friend of the family's. The nice part of travelling with well-connected friends? You don't eat with the get to eat in the owners private balcony table, upstairs off his office.

Traditional Brazilian food excites me, and other foodies...but would frighten a vegetarian. On this plate, clockwise starting at the bottom, is steak, okra, chicken hearts, another of those pork rinds covering some other meat, a type of tabbouleh, chicken gizzards, roast pork, and finally feijoada.

Feijoada is the Brazilian national dish, and is prepared with black turtle beans, with a variety of salted pork and beef products, such as salted pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue). This stew is prepared over slow fire in a thick clay pot. The final dish has the beans and meat pieces barely covered by a dark purplish-brown broth. The taste is strong, moderately salty but not spicy, dominated by the flavors of black bean and meat stew. On the left, you'll see another rendition at our host's farm, where the bulk of the meat has been removed from the stew and arranged on a plate.

Brazil offers many other culinary delights besides the meat orgy.....but I'll share them another day. At the moment, believe it or not, I'm craving chicken hearts and gizzards. Yes....they were that good....simmered long and slow with spices, and so tender they would melt in your mouth. If you are reading this and saying 'ewwww"......than you're just not a real foodie!

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