feijoada, Brazil's most popular candidate for the status of "national dish", is a vegetarian's nightmare. Centered around a bubbling pot of black beans laden with chunks of all the fattest, greasiest parts of the pig, feijoada must seem like the devil's dish itself to someone who eschews animal-derived food. The cauldron that is the centerpiece of a feijoada table is likely to contain, hidden under the glossy, pitch-black surface of the beans, things like fat links of sausage, racks of smoked ribs, salted pig's tails, ears and feet - anything and everything that's full of animal flesh and fat.
But the love of feijoada runs deep indeed in Brazil, and even vegetarians and veganBrazilians can't imagine living a feijoada-less existence. In São Paulo, at least, they no longer have to. A small enterprise called Comida & Consciência (Food and Consciousness in English), in the city's upmarket Higienópolis neighborhood, has come to their rescue. Every Saturday (the traditional day for eating feijoada) the owners of Comida & Consciência make organic, vegetarian feijoada for their loyal customers, thus allowing those folks to share in Brazil's weekend ritual of feijoada.
Comida & Consciência's feijoada contains black beans, of course, but instead of cooking the legume with smoked pork products, their vegetarian version uses smoked tofu, soya cutlets, zucchini, parsley stalks, beets and strips of dried coconut to give the beans depth and richness. The beans are accompanied by traditional accompaniments - rice, sauteed kale and toasted oat flour, which stands in for the traditional toasted manioc flour. All the ingredients are organic, and the dish is completely vegan. Each serving of feijoada costs R$20,00, or just USD $10 at current exchange rates, plus a small delivery charge which varies depending on distance.
Lighter, less heavy and much healthier than traditional feijoada, Comida & Consciência's feijoada might just be the proof (literal in this case) of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
With material from the food section of Estado de S. Paulo newspaper,