Thanks to a recent post on blogger TomLeMesurier's excellent blog Eat Rio, we learned about a Brazilian book published last year entitled Guia Carioca da Gastronomia de Rua, which means roughly - A Street Food Guide for Rio Dwellers. A title like that made it almost imperative that we buy a copy, which is exactly what we did a few days ago.
If any city lives on the street (and the beach) Rio de Janeiro does. The weather, which ranges from warm to hot during the entire year, the breathtaking natural setting, the spectacular beaches, and the year-long street festival that is the carioca lifestyle mean that a good portion of the population spends a great deal of their time out in public. Rio's weather isn't conducive to nestling at home - to quote Cole Porter. "It's too darn hot!" Who wants to curl up on the sofa when just a short ways down the hill there are miles of wide beaches, full of sunbathers - tourists and locals alike. Even at night, the tropical breezes beckon and there's bound to be a street festival, from a block party up to the citywide orgy of Carnaval, that you can't resist. And everywhere outside in Rio there's food for sale - which is the topic of Guia Carioca da Gastronomia de Rua.
The Guia (Guide) has 18 more chapters featuring Rio's urban gastronomy and the marvelous people to make and sell it. There are chapters on snacks like pipoca (popcorn) and picolé (popsicles), heartier fare such as cachorro quente (hot dogs), churrasquinho (kebab) or sushi, and even a cocktail - the caipirinha, naturally. Each chapter introduces the reader to another fascinating character - Arnaldo, who brought his trade as a tapioca seller all the way from Ceará, in northeastern Brazil, or Val, who sells the best fruit salad on Ipanema beach.
What the book does best, besides introduce these marvelous characters and explain the street food they sell, is capture the outdoor soul of Rio - through text, gorgeous photos and even a DVD, included with the book. It's a paean to Rio's street food, and it has an entirely worthy subject. It's also a great guide for visitors to Rio, and the very last section is an excellent translation of the text into English. The book can be ordered online here and shipped anywhere in the world. If Rio's in your travel future, and you love street food, Flavors of Brazil highly recommends you buy the book before you go. You'll be introduced to some fantastic food, and wonderful people.