Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Capoeira, cassava bread, and fried manioc in Brazil

Okay, I admit it. This post is about African culture in Brazil, not just African food culture, but the line is kind of blurry, isn't it? I can't think about African food without thinking about music and community, anyway. Last weekend friends were here from Chile, and my sister from Oregon, so a group of us went to Ouro Prêto, a UNESCO world heritage site. I especially wanted to show them the carvings of Alejiandnho ( nicknamed "Little Cripple," the son of a Portuguese architect and a black slave, and one of the most famous sculptors of Brazil), and the church built by Chico-Rei, an African king from Angola who was captured with his entire tribe and sent to work in a mine in Ouro Prêto, and who later earned his freedom, his son's, and the rest of his people's, then re-established his court, African clothing, and African customs in Ouro Prêto. He is a folk hero among Brazilian blacks. While we were lounging in Tiradentes Square in the town's center, some guys started playing and "dancing" capoeira, a form of African martial arts/dance that was developed by slaves to fight their masters, and disguised as a kind of dance. It's noted for its "fluid and circular" movements. I pulled out my camera, got their permission (but they didn't want money), and recorded a few minutes of the dance to share.

There's a lot of African influence in Minas Gerais. This Friday I'm heading to Central Market again to shop for a cooking class this weekend where I'm learning to make feijoada for friends who're coming on Sunday (remember I wrote about eating it in August when we first arrived). By the way, a couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at pão de queijo, a great specialty of the region, a kind of cheese popover made with tapioca flour, eggs, cheese, and butter. It's one of my husband's new-found favorites, along with the mandioca fritas I've also been learning to make, both illustrated below.

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