Comer: (v) to eat, in Portugese.
So whenever I talk to my mom, the only thing she wants to know is what I’m eating. And I tell her not to worry, because I am eating well, a lot. Way more food than what I consume in the US and spending a looot of money on it too. So this post is for her and there’s nothing about running in here (I am sick this week and therefore off from running and NOT from eating).
When I got here I figured Brazilians don’t know the meaning of having a ‘light meal’. It’s very hard to find low-fat anything. The two types of milk at breakfast are skim (which I hate) and whole milk, and if you pour the whole milk in your coffee, you can watch the cream form in seconds. Gross.
So does everyone look like Gisele? The answer is no. At least not in SP. In Rio, on the beaches the bodies are tighter and the swimwear negligible so I wonder what they eat. Read a fellow expats musings on Brazilian food and figures here.
But the coffee is uh-mazing! I’ll get to it eventually. Let me jot down thoughts in order of meal-times.
Though we’ve mostly eaten breakfast at the hotel, which is delightfully exactly the same every single day, including weekends, Brazilians don’t spend too much thought on breakfast, or so it seems. It’s some runny scrambled eggs, a heap of wilty bacon (not crispy like American bacon), hot dogs (which I am afraid to admit, I like). Fortunately they do have yogurt and my Indian heart feels happy to have plain yogurt (not the sugary, fake-fruit yogurt blends you get in the US). Here the yogurt is full fat and tastes just so and I love it. I am sure my Tam Brahm in-laws would be very happy too.
I’ve mostly seen the Brazilians eat a turkey or ham sandwich for breakfast with a slab of white cheese (kind of like paneer). I tried it and it’s nothing to write about. By far the best thing at breakfast is Pão do Queijo – or cheese bread, a delightful little ball of cheese and bread. This is a versatile piece of bread and it’s served at all times of the day in any restaurant in Brazil. With coffee, with beer with everything.
My favoritie brekkie in Brazil was at a cafe we found in Rio. Hungover, tired and hungry, my expat friends and our Brazilian Everton were walking around on a Sunday afternoon for food. We all were craving a big American breakfast and IHOP was the topic of conversation. We found a Subway (with picanhã sandwich) and KFC but fortunately didn’t go in, we hadn’t gotten that desperate. Instead there was a delightful cafe with a breakfast platter – pancakes (tiny crepes), scrambled eggs, fruit (papaya, yuck), ham, the white cheese slab and yogurt with granola with cappuchino. DIVINE!!
Lunch is a very important meal for Brazilians. At work, they take about 1 to 1.5 hours for lunch. Hard working Paulistanas, who stay in the office till 8pm sometimes to beat the traffic, study after work or spend time commuting don’t have time for an elaborate dinner. So they make the best of the lunch hour and the meal is elaborate. No working lunch here but lunch works hard. Near the office there are a large number of Lanchonettes or lunch homes. They may serve entrees/prãtos do dia (daily specials) or food by the kilo in a buffet form, with prices ranging from R$34-R$49 per kilo. Food in Brazil, especially in SP is expensive. On average lunch costs about R$30-R$40 (about $18 – $25). But its sooooo good. Traditionally, its a piece of grilled meat – chicken or steak (picanhã, Brazilian barbecued meat, very very flavorful and very tasty no matter where you eat it), rice, vegetables dunked in butter and a bowl of beans. Some of the daily specials include even more elaborate cheese, meaty goodness. Here they are in order of taste (to me):
Escondidinho: it’s a casserole kind of like Shepherd’s Pie except the meat base is carne seca or literally, dried meat or beef jerky. Topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked with cheese on top. I can’t believe anyone can be remotely productive after a lunch of this meal.
Feijoada: This is the most traditional Brazilian dish I have been hearing about since the day I landed here. Brazilians eat this on Wednesdays or Saturdays (and probably go right back to bed after). It’s a stew of black beans cooked with various pig parts, to be eaten with rice, farofa (a flour mixture made with manioca flour from the Amazonian rainforest) sprinkled on top. I was treated to Feijoada Light today with recognizable pork meat and sausage, rice, farofa and some greens and 2 wedges of an orange. The real deal has practically the whole pig. Honestly, it was okay – I like beans and I like pork and it tasted fine. Kinda reminded me of Borracho beans in Mexican food where the beans are cooked with pork, if that became a main dish. Here’s a photo:
Of course, these are traditional fare but people also order lasagne and other cheesy goodness from other cuisines. Italian food is a local favorite as is Japanese.