Wednesday, January 16, 2013
That's right, in Recife, according to a survey by the city's municipal government and judging by the number of soup vendors that populate the city's most popular beaches, what beachgoers want is a cup of soup (called caldinho or "little soup" in Portuguese), steaming hot. Whether it's bean soup, shrimp soup or fish soup, soup is what hits the spot in Recife.
There is a scientific basis to this predilection for hot soup on a hot day. Ingesting hot food causes the body to sweat, and as the sweat evaporates, it cools the body. It's for the same reason that Thai food, Indian food and other cuisines from hot climes are often spicy - the chiles cause sweating, which cools the body. It's counter-intuitive, but it does work. And it seems that Recife's beach crowd has figured it out.
The garnishes that accompany caldinho are almost as important to customers as the soup itself, according to many of the ambulant vendors that walk the beach all day long, dishing out plastic cups of soup from a thermos jug and adding garnishes according to the customer's desires. Traditional accompaniments include quails' eggs, torresmo (pork rinds), corn kernels and olive slices.
In addition to ambulant vendors, there are beachside stands that sell soup to walk-up customers, and in the most popular of those, it's not uncommon to sell 80 liters (80 quarts) of soup on a weekend afternoon. Many of the stands are weekend-only propositions and are staffed by members of a single extended family.
Coming up in our next posts are some typical caldinho recipes from northeastern Brazil. They're great whether served on a tropical beach, or in a snowbound cabin in the mountains.