All About the Food

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Sao Paulo,
Friday, November 2, 2012

I'd like to take a brief break from our wanderings to talk about something that I believe is integral to travel – food (this is Grace, by the way, but you should know that from the topic of this post). I think that food is a window onto a culture and I'm just starting to eat my way through South America. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken any photos of food, so you’ll just have to suffer through photos of Iguazu Falls

Also unfortunately, my food journey started where most do - on the plane. As most of you know, Ceri and I are pescatarians – we are vegetarians who eat dairy and fish (also called vegaquariums by some silly people). As most of you probably don’t know, no matter what we choose from the myriad options on the "special meals" list on a plane, which includes such bizarre terms as "Vegetarian (lacto-ovo)", “Vegetarian (pure)” and “Hindu vegetarian“ – we always end up with the same meal. Invariably we receive a bland, tasteless curry with bland boiled vegetables on the side and fruit for dessert. This is regardless of whether or not one of the main options they are serving would be fine for us. When I’m nibbling on my boiled vegetables and I hear the stewardess ask my neighbour if he’d like gnocchi with four cheese sauce, a warm roll, and a brownie, I just want to shout out “I can eat that, give me that!” But no, no matter what we choose from that long list, we are punished with an uber-healthy meal that serves numerous dietary restrictions.

When we arrived in Brazil, we worryingly thought that our fates might be sealed as on the plane. There was only one choice on the menu for us. After beef, chicken, and numerous meat options, scrawled at the bottom of every chalkboard was “peixe del dia (fish of the day).” We were upset to discover that we had only one option. Well, actually Ceri was relieved as he is a proud opponent of too many food choices (remind me to never take him to the Cheesecake Factory). But I was distraught! I thought we would be having the same meal day in and day out.

Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We discovered that we never quite knew what this choice would bring. In Rio, it was delicious on-the-bone thick steaks with beans and rice and a thick polenta-like accompaniment. This was of course enhanced by the obligatory giant bottle of hot sauce. The barman handed us a liter bottle consisting of hundreds of small chilli peppers that looked like they’d been added into the bottle of oil over generations. Dad, I think this bottle could even compete alongside your collection of Dave’s Insanity sauces.  

On the island, the fish of the day was fish stew with tomatoes, peppers and coconut milk. At a beach-side cafe in Parati, it was lightly battered and freshly-fried thick steaks that were hot off the pan and accompanied by deep-fried, hot, salty yam chips. And in swanky Sao Paulo, we had cornmeal balls stuffed with crab followed by fish over a bed of banana risotto. And each place had its own concoction of hot sauce to accompany their meals. I tried each and every one, although of course regretted some as they only enhanced my lovely tropical glow by adding sweat to my sun-burned forehead.

The fruity, spicy, seafood cuisine of Brazil has been amazing. However, I’m a little worried for what us pescatarians may face next, as guidebook states, “The cuisine of Argentina can be summed up in one word: beef.”
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Rachel L on

Banana risotto sounds yum!! :)

Josh on

Sounds delicious!

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