Writing about Brazilian gastronomy can be quite tricky, since our national cuisine is typically regional. Every immigrant that came to our country brought their eating habits together with their beliefs, creeds and customs, creating a vast “pan” of gastronomical influences. From North to South, our food has the taste of ethnic diversity.
In this post, you will get to know a little bit about the gastronomic influence from the colonial times, as well as a popular kind of establishment that expresses our passion to make the act of eating a social activity.
About Portuguese, Africans and Indians
The Portuguese brought their food habits along with agriculture and cattle herding techniques, starting with the use of meat and milk products in the country. It is also from the Portuguese that come some of the Indian influences in our food. Since the “discovery” of Brazil, Pedro Álvares Cabral had already brought Indian spices to the country from his expeditions.
From the (native) Indian culture, we inherited the use of corn, manioc and other roots in our dishes. Preparations made with meat (from different animals that you could find in our forests, like the capivara and anta) and the broth prepared with manioc powder gave birth to our Cozido with Pirão, a famous Brazilian dish that can also be made with Fish. But between seafood, fish and wild animals, something was still missing.
When Africans came as slaves they brought even more diverse spices with them. Azeite de Dendê and different kinds of pepper gave a spark to the european/indian food. Working in the kitchens of the farms, in the most adverse situations, they used to prepare dishes that incorporated different kinds of meat and beans: precursors to our most popular dish, the Feijoada.
Taking a trip forward to the current days, the term Baixa Gastronomia (Low gastronomy) has been used in Brazil to define the gastronomy that comes from the simplest places, with a lack of sophistication, but richness in flavor.
You can find this kind of cuisine in the Botecos /Butecos spread around the country. The name Boteco comes from the word “botica”, a term used to specify a kind of shop from the nineteenth century, which sold a little bit of everything. The clients used to go to this shop and engage in long talks. Over time, the owners started to serve small dishes and also drinks to the clients. After a while, these kinds of places turned into a social meeting point, where people went even if they didn’t need to buy groceries.
Therefore, the Botecos today are a symbol of the Brazilian casualness. Regardless of the size and decoration (a lot of them are just an accumulation of plastic chairs and tables and nothing more), they feel like extensions of our own houses – a place to gather the people you enjoy being with and share a night of drinking, eating and loose talking. There, you can find different types of Tira-gostos (Appetizers) such as the famous Filé com Fritas, Bolinhos de Bacalhau, Pasteizinhos, Caldinhos or some of the many other regional dishes. Deep fried food is common, but in every city you will find some specialty that defines the food habits of the place. For example, the Arrumadinho in Recife is present in each Boteco of the city.
Sharing is also often common when it comes to Appetizers: They usually come in portions that serve more than 3 people, because eating alone is not the conception of this activity. The idea is to guarantee a social and engaging experience. 🙂