Feijoada — the dish that represents Brazil best
By Maria José Amaral
In orange and chopped collard greens — the Brazilian colors of Feijoada, according to Brazilian Amazonian poet Luis Bacellar, who greatly extolled Brazilian cuisine in his poems. (1928–2012).
Traditionally, one of the primal pleasures in São Paulo is eating Feijoada for lunch on Wednesdays or Saturdays. And a place that has kept this tradition for 75 years in São Paulo is the Bolinha Restaurant located on Jardim Europa.
Bolinha’s Restaurant name comes from the childhood nickname of Mr. Affonso Paulillo, owner of the bar at that time, and president of the floodplain soccer team Jardim Europa Soccer Club. It was on Saturday 1946, after his team´s victory in a social and sporting championship, he decided to make a Feijoada to celebrate it.
Bolinha told his partner and friend Zé Gordinho: “Let’s make a Feijoada to celebrate our victory!” But when they realized they didn’t know how to make it, Bolinha asked his mother and wife to teach them how to prepare it. It was very tasty, people liked it and, from a deeply personal project and entrepreneurial spirit, they started making Feijoada every Saturday.
Sometimes, I like to pass the time by imagining what life would be like if Mr. Paulillo — “Bolinha” hadn’t had the idea of making Feijoada that day. Certainly, Wednesdays and Saturdays wouldn’t be as pleasant as they are today.
CUISINE INFLUENCED BY MANY CULTURES
Cooking is really a form of expression, a language, a path for people to communicate and interact with each other. It translates or at least should translate, the culture of a people, their way of supplying, selecting ingredients and making the dishes, how they eat, and who they eat with.
Brazilian gastronomy is what it is today, due to its set of historical influences. This is like tasting good wine; it takes patience and a real desire to discover unknown nuances.
Brazil was settled by a mixture of different human ethnicities, giving rise to a country “mixed-race”. Many people contributed to the course of the history in Brazilian colonization: Portuguese, Italians, and Africans, bringing economic goods, customs, and ways of thinking.
And adding to all this, the climatic varieties, an enviable diversity of ingredients, history and creativity, with very typical or re-elaborated dishes, giving a unique mark to Brazilian cuisine. Only in recent decades, we have noticed a greater appreciation of Brazilian ingredients and indigenous eating habits.
The strong culinary influences from Europeans, added to native indigenous customs allowed Brazilian cuisine keeps faithful to its roots, mixing the culinary traditions between neighbouring regions, and making possible a mix of geographic realities, historical kinship, and mutual influences.
Some ingredients have been with us since the beginning of our colonization — beans, cassava, corn — others, such as rice, gained importance in the 19th century. Thus explaining the dynamic Brazilian’s history of territorial occupation and the variations in eating habits in all regions of Brazil.
Another Brazilian food habit is the use of flour (corn or cassava), which at first sounded strange to foreigners, but it has gained prominence in current Brazilian cuisine, such as beans, jerky, the Feijoada itself, the typical fruits of each region, our unconventional food plants (PANCs) and many others.
MAKING A FEIJOADA
Despite this, Feijoada still carries strong mythology. For a long time, it was considered a dish “created” in the slave quarters. It is a stew dish with European technique, like Puchero, in Spain; Cassoulet, in France; or Feijoada Transmontana, in Portugal. The difference is, our Feijoada is made with black beans grown by indigenous people here.
But one of the most inviting points from Bolinha Restaurant is the loyalty of Mr. José Orlando Paulillo — owner and second generation in the leadership of the restaurant along with his brother and family — who, on 50-years-old wood stoves, has been preparing Feijoada with care and love. This really makes all the difference in how the food is cooked and how it tastes, as cooking is slower on a wood stove than on a gas stove.
Many processes and ingredients are involved in making a Feijoada, beginning with the desalting of the meats for 24 hours, changing the water from three to five times. The next morning, you cook these meats for 20 to 30 minutes in new water, without the black beans, just to get rid of excess fat. After this, soak the black beans for at least three hours before cooking. Then discard this water to cook it in freshwater.
It is essential to cook meats in whole pieces, when it will be possible, or to cut them into large pieces so that they all have the same cooking time. Usually, some meats’ cooking times are faster than others, such as sausage and paio, while pork ear and tail take longer, pork foot takes even longer, and jerky takes even longer. As for the pork rib, make sure it doesn’t come off the bone.
After that, add black beans and generous bay leaves with the meats, but above all from three to four oranges cut in half. They will add up more flavors and will cut out a little more fat. The importance of using pig’s foot, tail and ear in the preparation is just they have collagen, and it will give the broth unctuous.
Then remove the cooked meats and set aside, check that the black beans are soft and then season with garlic, onion, and good oil. Returning the minced meat to the stewpot along with the black beans, leaving it to cook for more than 40 minutes over low heat.
It is served with white rice, toasted cassava flour, and deep-fried cassava deep-fried bananas, pork rinds and sliced oranges and to go with it, Mr. Orlando suggests, the world-famous Brazilian cocktail called caipirinha made with cachaça.
Maria José Amaral has a degree in Social Communication and worked in Brazilian Advertising Agencies for 15 years. Moving into the Health area, Maria earned an Executive MBA in Healthcare Management, in São Paulo, Brazil in 2020. Her research focused on knowledge management and information exchange between organizations focusing on quality, sustainability, and effectiveness in health care.
In 2021, Maria added wine knowledge to her interests she gained ‘Wine Trade at WSET’ Brazil, completing WSET Level 2 , January 2022. As an extension, Maria completed ‘Food Writing for Publication Essentials’ at La Fondation Le Cordon Bleu, in December 2021.
The world of wine has been Maria’s passion for many years, with the last couple of years affording her the opportunity to gain qualifications and prepare for her career in the wine industry and writing about it.
Learn more about all Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning courses on our website: https://online.cordonbleu.edu/
This article is the work of Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning Food Writing for Publication course participant. Le Cordon Bleu is not responsible for the content and the opinion and view is that of the author.