Friday, August 5, 2011

Brazilian Gastronomic Expressions Pt. 1 - O Rei de Cocada Preta

Here at Flavors of Brazil, we've not tracked down examples from all 6000 languages spoken in the world, but we're willing to bet that every one of them has at least one common expression or idiom that comes from the world of food and cooking. The French with their lengthy cultural obsessions with food and language naturally have many such expressions - "crème de la crème" for anything that is the best of its class, or "cracher dans la soupe" - literally "spit in the soup" and bearing the same meaning as the English expression "bite the hand that feeds you." The Italian expression "come rubare le caramelle a un bambino is easily recognizable in its English translation, "like taking candy from a baby." From Yiddish comes the charming and insulting "zol vacksen tsibiles fun dayn pupik" meaning "onions should grow from your navel." And English, of course, if full of such expressions - "too many cooks spoil the broth", "piece of cake", "gravy train", "from the frying pan into the fire" and "sells like hotcakes."

Brazilian Portuguese is no exception when it comes to culinary idioms. We thought it might be fun in this post and in occasional future posts to feature some of these expressions and the foods that inspired them.

The King himself, from the Brazilian website O Rei da Cocada Preta
One of the most commonly-encountered food idioms in Brazil is "o rei da cocada preta." It's used something like this - Ele se acha o rei da cocada preta (in English "he thinks he's the king of dark cocada). The sense of the idiom is that this person has an undeservedly high opinion of himself - he's full of himself. Arrogant, egotistical, egocentric - or simply the king of dark cocada.

Earlier this hear, Flavors of Brazil published a recipe for cocada, a traditional sweet made from grated dry coconut and sugar syrup, sometimes enrichened with cream or condensed milk. It's delicious, no question, but why would someone who's got a big head consider himself the king of dark cocada? Like many food idioms, the origins of this phrase are lost in time, but in Brazilian folklore there is a legendary kingdom called Cocada Preta. It's supposedly located somewhere on a tiny island off the coast of Brazil, and although it is desperately empoverished and has nothing, the inhabitants think it's the best place on earth. It's likely that this island's monarch shares the opinion of his subjects, hence the idiom.

Basic cocada, made from coconut, sugar and condensed milk is bright white, but there does exist a variation called cocada preta. It's made with rapadura, a darkly-colored unrefined sugar. This dark brown sugar gives cocada preta its color, and indirectly gives Brazilians a colorful and flavorful way to express their opinions of the egoists in their midst. Next time on Flavors of Brazil, we'll post a recipe for cocada preta.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful Brazilian idiom! Thanks for sharing that.

    I'm not so sure about the photo, however...