Thursday, September 27, 2012

On the Road - Salvador - Pt. 1

Salvador, Bahia
From time to time since beginning this blog in 2009, we've featured series of reports from various cities and regions of Brazil. We call them On the Road, and in the past we've reported on the gastronomic culture and food scene in such places as São Luis, Rio de Janeiro, Jericoacoara and Belém. Every one of these series originated with a trip to the location in question - visiting markets, street-food stalls, restaurants, museums and supermarkets. And in each, we've included restaurant reviews, photos and videos, and recipes.

This weekend we're in Salvador, Bahia, preparing for the next in the series. The state of Bahia, and in particular its capital, Salvador, is home to the most well-known and widely-appreciated of all of Brazil's regional cuisines, referred to in Portuguese as comida baiana and in English as Bahian cuisine.

Brazil's food culture is a complex mixture of influences, but there are three essential referential points - the gastronomy of Europe, particularly of Portugual, the native American gastronomy of the indigenous Amerindian cultures, and the gastronomy of Africa, which was brought to Brazil by captive slaves. Bahia's food culture rests primarily on African roots - the slaves who came to Brazil from Africa beginning in the 16th century carried very little with them in the holds of slave ships. Only their African cultural heritage - food, art, religion, music, rhythms and the like - survived the trip across the South Atlantic from Angola, Benin and Guinea to places like Bahia, Pernambuco and Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Candomblé
The African influences on Bahian culture bubble and stir together in a large open pot - the spicy dishes that Bahia shares with Africa are served in the temples of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé, and the rhythmic songs and chants of Bahia often sing the praises of local delicacies. It's all connected organically, and the mixture is unique to Bahia.

Starting at the beginning of next week, when we're back from Bahia, check out Flavors of Brazil, On the Road - Salvador. If you know Bahia, it should bring back some great sensory memories. And if you've not been there, it will surely whet your appetite to go.


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