Friday, February 12, 2010

Farewell to Meat! - It's Carnaval time in Brazil

Carnaval officially begins today throughout Brazil and continues until Tuesday. It only dies in the ashes of Ash Wednesday. I'll be travelling with friends to Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, where we'll celebrate carnaval there and in the neighboring historic city of Olinda. Thus, there will be no posts on Flavors of Brazil until the second half of next week.

Brazilian Carnaval is a gigantic national party of music, dance, fun and drink. Certainly it must rank as one of the LEAST food-related holidays in the world. Carnaval is all about those "other" appetites, and most Carnaval celebrants keep themselves fueled with street food or junk food. In fact, in most cities where there is a large Carnaval there are no other options for eating, as restaurants and stores are closed for the duration. If this blog were about beer, on the other hand, or about the samba, I would return from Recife with a huge amount of material for the blog - but since Flavors of Brazil concerns food, the reports from Carnaval will be limited.

The main connection between Carnaval and food, in fact, appears to be a rather negative one. There are various suppositions for the etymology of the name Carnaval. I had always heard that it comes from the Latin "carne vale" which means "farewell to meat" and refers to the fact that after Carnaval comes the fasting period of Lent, when meat was traditionally forbidden by the Church. Doing some linguistic research for this post, however, led me to a number of sources which offer alternative etymologies. One of the most common is that Carnaval comes from dialectical Italian "carne levare" which means "remove meat", again referring to the Lenten fast. Other sources indicate that although Carnaval comes down from "carne vale", the "carne" referred to is not the meat one eats, but the more sensual flesh for which Carnaval is famous. Most serious scholars, however, seem to be on the side of the derivation from Italian "carne levare". Nonetheless, I continue to prefer "Farewell to Meat." It's got such a nice culinary connotation, which in this particular case has nothing to do with vegetarianism.

So it's Farewell to Meat for me for a week. Postings on Flavors of Brazil will resume on Ash Wednesday.

Bom Carnaval para todos, Happy Carnaval!


  1. enjoy the party...but do you have a little wish to be with the eyes of the world in your Vancouver?

  2. Hey Stephanie - In fact, I am a little sad that I'll miss all the fun in Vancouver, but I can watch it on TV down here. As you can imagine there aren't many Brazilian athletes competing for medals in Vancouver!!! Love to all in MQT