Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Contradiction in Terms? Vegetarian, Organic Feijoada Arrives

Properly made, a plate of feijoada, Brazil's most popular candidate for the status of "national dish", is a vegetarian's nightmare. Centered around a bubbling pot of black beans laden with chunks of all the fattest, greasiest parts of the pig, feijoada must seem like the devil's dish itself to someone who eschews animal-derived food. The cauldron that is the centerpiece of a feijoada table is likely to contain, hidden under the glossy, pitch-black surface of the beans, things like fat links of sausage, racks of smoked ribs, salted pig's tails, ears and feet - anything and everything that's full of animal flesh and fat.

But the love of feijoada runs deep indeed in Brazil, and even vegetarians and veganBrazilians can't imagine living a feijoada-less existence. In São Paulo, at least, they no longer have to. A small enterprise called  Comida & Consciência (Food and Consciousness in English), in the city's upmarket Higienópolis neighborhood, has come to their rescue. Every Saturday (the traditional day for eating feijoada) the owners of Comida & Consciência make organic, vegetarian feijoada for their loyal customers, thus allowing those folks to share in Brazil's weekend ritual of feijoada.

Comida & Consciência is in the business of making and delivering home-cooked ready-to-eat vegetarian meals to their customers' apartments, houses or offices. Because many of their customers get their meals delivered every day from the shop, there are no repetitions on the monthly menu - except for feijoada, that is. It, by popular demand, is available every Saturday. Originally started by two friends who shared a common interest in healthy, organic eating and who began sharing their vegetarian dishes with likeminded friends, Comida & Consciência has become a way for the two women to share not only their philosophy of food, but also, as they say, their "consciousness of life."

Comida & Consciência's feijoada contains black beans, of course, but instead of cooking the legume with smoked pork products, their vegetarian version uses smoked tofu, soya cutlets, zucchini, parsley stalks, beets and strips of dried coconut to give the beans depth and richness. The beans are accompanied by traditional accompaniments - rice, sauteed kale and toasted oat flour, which stands in for the traditional toasted manioc flour. All the ingredients are organic, and the dish is completely vegan. Each serving of feijoada costs R$20,00, or just USD $10 at current exchange rates, plus a small delivery charge which varies depending on distance.

Lighter, less heavy and much healthier than traditional feijoada, Comida & Consciência's feijoada might just be the proof (literal in this case) of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

With material from the food section of Estado de S. Paulo newspaper,


  1. Vegetarian feijoada! My husband makes a version of it, but good to know that you can find it in Brazil as well. Can't wait to visit and try!

  2. This is interesting to me. In Salvador, Bahia I worked in the suburb Vitória. There was is a Ethiopian man who has a comida a kilo, Ethiopian style restaurant but once a week he makes his vegetarian feijoada. He would not give the recipe says it is secret, but it really is wonderful in its own unique way. The feat of the dish is he is able to get a creamy dish, somehow able to reproduce the fat/grease from the original dish.

  3. Look, I'm sure the food is wonderful but it's not exactly feijoada, is it? Yes, I think it's a contradiction. Feijoada sans meat is like a caipirinha without cachaca: it's either a lemonade or a cocktail with another name like caipiroska or caipisaque.

    The "organic" aspect also doesn't fit. (Here I go, getting into trouble with the foodies... :)) Feijoada is supposed to be a poor man's dish made with leftover parts of the animal. If you're going to be picky about the ingredients, you might as well have some gluten-free crackers with hummus.

    On a serious note, a lot of vegetarians think that killing an animal only for the good bits (steak, breast, etc) is a lot more despicable. Looking at it from that point of view, feijoada's economical use of all the otherwise unwanted parts isn't that bad really.

    1. Thanks for the comments. The points you raise are precisely why I titled the article with a question - a contradiction in terms?
      I'm in total accord, incidentally, with your last point about the economic and moral issues involved in using only a small part of a slaughtered animal's carcass and discarding the rest.