Monday, October 23, 2006

Africa in Brasil (Brazil)

My husband is in Brasil/Brazil this October (2006). It turns out a number of people there never saw my pictures nor comments from my trip last year, so here they are in case you missed them, too. I still intend to pursue researching the Afro-Latin connections in Brazil and Latin America:

"I've just returned home (I wrote in 2005) from exploring Afro-Brazilian cuisine in Salvador (Bahia), Belo Horizonte and Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais), and Rio de Janeiro. The Portuguese and indigenous influences that worked their way back to Africa (such as corn and cassava and farofa-like gari) were fascinating, as were the influences going the other way (e.g., why dendê oil and coconut milk but not palm butter?). I sampled Cristina's tasty acarajé (a deep-fried cowpea paste fritter split open and filled with shrimp and a pepper sauce), reportedly "the best in Salvador," at Barraca de Cira, Praia de Itapoã. Acarajé is the descendant of West Africa's akla (a.k.a. akara, accara, kosai, koose, kose). We also had abará, a version steamed in banana leaves that has to be related to Ghana's tubaani or Nigeria's moyin-moyin or elele. I'm especially indebted to Brazilian colleagues: fellow IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) member Margarida Nogueira in Rio, Dr. Ericivaldo Veiga de Jesus, from the Catholic University of São Paulo, nutritionist Vera Fontes in Belo Horizonte, and Patricia Soutto Mayor Assumpçao of Buffet Célia Soutto Mayor. Plus special thank yous for their warm hospitality and acting as translators and guides go to Virginia and Renato Ciminelli and their family, Monica Christina Teixeira, and Claudia Lima. Several people have suggested pursuing further research into these cultural and agricultural connections via three-way collaboration among researchers in Brazil (and/or other Latin countries), Africa, and the U.S. Much attention appears already devoted to the influences from Africa to Brazil and the diaspora. I am especially interested in pursuing things from the other direction. For example, I wonder how related central Africa's batôn de manioc is to the processing of manioc by peoples in Amazonia, such as the Tupi-Guarani. Ditto for the fermenting of corn for Ghana's kenkey or banku. Also, I've never eaten cassava chips in Ghana, but they're a standard in Brazil. How do Brazil's roughly 1600 species of cassava (manioc) compare to West Africa's? Etc., etc., etc. Any ideas on how to pursue these interests? Get in touch."


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