Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Food of the Gods - Acarajé

In my previous post about Brazilian certification of the selling of acarajé as a national treasure, I mentioned that there were strong links between the custom of baianas selling acarajé on the streets and in the squares of Salvador, Bahia, and the Afro-Brazilian religious traditions of  candomblé. Ubiratan Castro de Araújo, ex-director of the Center of Afro-Oriental Studies at the Universidade Federal da Bahia said in 2001, "The market of acarajé is a great market given by the orixás (gods and goddesses of candomblé) to the holy women of Bahia."

The tradition of public sales of acarajé has its origin in the universe of candomblé : the "obligation of acarajé" in which the priests and priestesses of candomblé authorized the production and public sale of acarajé by women initiated in the ritual traditions of candomblé , with the objective of covering the costs of their initiation. Following a ritual practice,  acarajé was traditionally sold from rounded wooden bowls, similar to those used in the rituals of candomblé to offer to the orixás and their followers this very same food.

Acarajé  is specifically connected to the cult of the goddess Iansã in the pantheon of the orixás. She is the goddess of wind, of hurricanes, of calming breezes and of storms, of things that pass with the wind, of ephemeral love, of anything that does not last forever. She is also identified with the River Niger in Africa. Her day is Wednesday, her number is nine, her colors are red, pink and brown, and her food, of course, is acarajé.

Today, many of the women selling acarajé in public are not connected with the world of  candomblé , nor are most of their clientele. However, even if they might be unaware, the clothes they wear, the utensils they use, the cooking techniques they employ, the arrangement of their selling table, and the food itself, are all intimately connected to the religious traditions carried to Brazil in centuries past by the slaves brought from Africa to work in Brazil's fields and mines.

1 comment:

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