Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Gastronomic Awareness at the Market

Since it was constructed over 100 years ago, Fortaleza's central food and produce market, the Mercado São Sebastião has grown and prospered, but has never been considered a gastronomic hotspot, even though one can buy all the traditional food stuffs of local regional cuisine as well as eat traditional northeastern food in a number of restaurants and lunch-stalls. Located in a distinctly down-market part of Fortaleza's downtown, the market has primarily served nearby residents and workers in the food industry, whether they are produce wholesalers, restaurant managers, or food producers. The lunch stalls which encircle the central produce section serve hearty, traditional meals from the early hours of the morning to the market's hungry vendors and customers, as well as to a few night owls who are accustomed to stop for a hot bowl of soup before heading home to sleep off the night's festivities.

The richness of the market and it's gastronomic value have always been underappreciated in Fortaleza, and many of the city's food establishment (produers and consumers alike) have never passed through the market's doors. That's all changing now as Fortaleza (like all of Brazil) is becoming more interested in all aspects of food and agriculture. Savvy consumers are doing their daily or weekly shopping at the market, knowing that the quality is high and the prices are low. Locavores and foodies arefamiliarizing themselves with the lunch stalls in search of the best panelada, galinha caipira or baião-de-dois. Things are definitely looking up at the market in all kinds of ways.

Being aware of the gastronomic and touristic potential of the market, the management of Mercado São Sebastião, in conjunction with SEBRAE, a governmental agency which aids small businesses, has initiated a project at the market to maximize its potential as a gastronomic destination. The market's vendors are being offered a course in local gastronomic history and tradition, standards of sanitation and hygiene, and entrepreneurship. The project includes a new gastronomic logo, which merchants who have completed the course can display at their booths, as well as signage in the market to help tourists and visitors find their way through the aisles and stalls.

In other cities of Brazil, a visit to the market is an essential part of tourists' itineraries. Belem's Ver-o-Peso market is the most visited destination in that city, as is the Mercado Público de Florianópolis in the southern state of Santa Catarina. Fortaleza, fortunately, is waking up to the fact that they already possess a market with similar tourism and gastronomic potential, and this new program is a valuable first step forward in making the Mercado São Sebastião an essential part of Fortaleza's tourist itinerary.


  1. Hello. I'm doing some research about Brazilian culture for a project I am currently working on. I would appreciate it if you could help answer some questions. I was wondering what the traditional cuisine is in Brazil? Are there certain, specific ingredients used? What is the most popular type of food? I would appreciate any information you could provide. Thank you.

    1. Hello - Brazil, being such a large country, has many traditional and regional cuisines. Ingredients vary from region to region as well, though obviously most of them are those that flourish in tropical and sub-tropical regions. I would suggest that you search this blog for items with the tag "traditional cooking" (just click the word in big letters on the right-hand column of this blog for lots of information on Brazilian traditional cuisine. Thanks for your interest.

    2. Thank you for the reply. I appreciate it. Also, do you know if the type of food varies for special occasions in Brazil? Like for certain important days in Brazil's history or special days like birthdays and celebrations? Would they use certain ingredients for certain important days? Thank you.


  2. I loved your post. It's really reach for English students and curious people. I'm gonna show it to my students and workmates. They certainly will love it too. I teach English for Brazilian people and I work at SESC Educar, near Mercado São Sebastião.

  3. Actually I loved your Blog as well...

  4. Thanks for such an entertaining blog! For those who are interested, a friend of a friend put together a slideshow of Brazilian fruits of the Northeast that I featured on my blog, The Produce Savant.

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