Food allows us to have a deeper experience of a country’s culture. The habits, customs, values and preferences from one society can be measured by looking at the dishes and drinks that express its culture in a very fascinating and involving manner.
The consumption of some dishes and beverages can be seen as popular rituals within a society. That is why I would like, through this post, to list some drinking and eating habits that show a little bit of the Brazilian way of living. I would also like to show how the form taken by some of these rituals demonstrate different kinds of social contact and behavior:
We do love our sweets. The custom came with the Portuguese at the beginning of Brazil’s colonization, but it was increased with the dawn of the sugar mills, a mainstay of the Brazilian’s economy for centuries. The large choice of fruit in our country, added onto the sugar production, opened the doors for a vast amount of marmalade recipes and other sweet creations.
But in the end of the 19th Century, we came across a creamy substance that would become an important ingredient of our sweets: Sweetened condensed milk. It was primarily misused from its original purpose, first created only to be a better way to store milk, and became the main ingredient of many of our Brazilian desserts. Our famous Brigadeiro is made from it (if you already have been in Brazil I’m sure you would recognize this sweet chocolate candy – too sweet for almost every foreigner).
For me it was quite surprising to realize that this ingredient is only used in a different and unsweetened manner in coffee in other countries, only in Russia is it utilized with the same purpose as in Brazil.
This sweet way of living is also reflected in our cocktails and other drinks: Apart from our beer (that is also less bitter then the beers around the world) we have creations that go from the famous sweet Caipirinha to the even sweeter Caipifruta, a drink that can contain any of our different fruit mixed with vodka (or cachaça) and sugar or (in the perverse versions) the omnipresent condensed milk.
So don’t think it is weird when we offer some highly sweetened food at some party or gathering, our sugar culture is just too strong to avoid it.
Brazilians are among the world’s biggest beer drinkers – We are among the largest beer markets in the world. But unlike some other countries, drinking in Brazil is mainly a social activity. In bars around the country you will realize that drinking beer is sharing an experience. That is why the beer bottles sold in ours bars are slightly bigger, containing 600ml (a one liter version has also been recently commercialized). So you will basically see people with a big beer in the middle of a table and small glasses around it.
When I arrived here in Germany it was quite difficult to get used to their 500ml glasses. Somehow our way of consuming beer is a lot about the pleasure and enjoyment of sitting, drinking slowly and being involved in a communal activity.
You may see references to this in ads, when you come to Brazil. Heineken created a 600ml bottle for the Brazilian market and announced it with the concept “Heineken to share”.
The Brazilian gastronomy topic is really broad, so I will talk about it a little more in my next post 🙂