candomblé, the gods and goddesses, known as the Orixás, each have their favorite foods. One Orixá might love acarajé, and another not be able to abide it. Devotees of each Orixá honor their deity by offering plates of their favorite foods, and later by eating the offering at the end of the ritual or ceremony.
Many of the most traditional foods of the African-based cuisine of the state of Bahia, on Brazil's northeast coast, are very closely linked to one or more of candomblé's gods and goddesses. The traditional Bahian table looks very similar in secular and religious settings, and the recipes carried down from generation to generation don't vary depending on whether the dish is destined to highlight a family festival, or to be placed before the altar in a terreiro de candomblé.
Oxum, goddess of fresh water, rivers and waterfalls, wealth, love, and beauty. Young and lovely, meticulous and vain, Oxum dresses luxuriously in yellow, her favorite color, and is often characterized as carrying a metal mirror in which she can admire her own beauty. When devotees of Oxum fall into a trance and become possessed by the goddess, they are dressed in white and yellow and given Oxum's metal mirror. In the syncretic tradition of identifying Orixás with Catholic saints or divinities, Oxum is often identified with one or another of the aspects of the Virgin Mary - Our Lady of Conception or the Virgin of Candelaria.
Not surprisingly, considering Oxum's love of the color, xinxim de galinha is a vibrant yellow dish of chicken in a sauce of ground dried shrimp and nuts, enlivened and made golden by the addition of dendê oil. The pieces of chicken are fried first, then cooked until tender in the thick, rich sauce. Xinxim is always served with plain white rice. In the next post, we'll provide a traditional recipe for xinxim de galinha.