Tuesday, June 29, 2010

These are Brazilian Dishes?? (REPOST)

(Please click here to read about this series of reposts of original posts from May 24, 2010 to June 12, 2010)

Imagine that you just bought a book of Brazilian regional cuisine. It has a beautiful cover and you thought it would be nice to have a book of Brazilian recipes in your collection of cookbooks. When you get it home and open it up to thumb through some recipes you find recipes for these dishes: lasagne, gnocchi, beefsteak tartare, chucrute, spatzle, Kassler rippen, and even knackwurstchen mit sauerkraut und salat. You'd think that somehow the wrong cover got put on the wrong book, and what you had was not a Brazilian cookbook but a German or Italian one. If your new book was about the regional cuisine of the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, however,then those recipes are exactly the ones you  should expect to find, as they are the typical foods of this state of immigrants, particularly from Germany and Italy.

Southern Brazil is different from the rest of the country in topography, climate, racial and ethnic mixture, and all forms of culture, including cuisine. The three southern states, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, share a temperate climate that is very different from most of Brazil, which is tropical year-round. In the mountains of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul temperatures fall to freezing or below frequently during the winter months of June, July and August. Most of the current population of these states can look back up the family tree to find ancestors living in Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Lebanon or Syria. And like descendants of immigrants around the world they continue to honor their immigrant heritage. Village festivals might include Oktoberfest-style beer tents and oom-pa-pa bands in lederhosen. Italian holidays are celebrated, as is the grape harvest with wine festivals. It's very different from the beach, sun and palm tree picture postcard image that most people carry in their minds when they think of Brazil.

But just as Carmela Soprano's baked ziti cooked at her home in New Jersey is not the same thing as her great-grandmother cooked in Italy, the dishes of these states, although they might have a name that comes from the family homeland, have been molded and modified by the years spent in Brazil. It's interesting to see what has changed over the course of a trans-oceanic voyage and a century or two in the New World, and what has not. In the next few posts, I'll give you some recipes from this region that reflect the immigrant heritage of southern Brazil. One thing for certain, the ingredients will not be difficult to find anywhere in North America or Europe. This is the cuisine of temperate climates, and the ingredients are very similar to areas with similar climates north of the equator.

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