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Brazilian Cuisine – Her Highness, the Pure Ingredient!

Brazilian Cuisine – Her Highness, the Pure Ingredient!

Brazilian cooking is diverse and multifaceted, just like the culture of the Brazilian people, delighting tastebuds by using unique local ingredients as the stars of dishes.

Brazil is plural. It is a country of contrasts, where diversity is found in every aspect in the life of its people. The same goes for Brazilian cuisine. Choosing a single element to sum up Brazilian cuisine is at the very least challenging, since we are talking about a massive country that covers nearly an entire continent, with over 8.5 million square kilometers of territory and a population of over 200 million. Its people are a melting pot of different ethnic groups, including its indigenous people, Europeans and Africans.

In addition to the multiculturalism, the diversification and combination of traditions in Brazilian cuisine are also the result of the vast differences in the climate, terrain, soil types, vegetation and available raw materials that typify each region of the country, fostering rich and varied local cuisine.

When asked about the factor that best explains Brazil's particular spot in the food world, renowned Brazilian chefs Mara Salles and Carole Crema, are unanimous in their response: the quality of local ingredients is the biggest differentiator in Brazilian cuisine.

"Our cuisine is very much tied to the natural quality of the ingredient and tied to ground-based kitchens, outdoor cooking fires, the wood-burning stove, the fruit on the tree. We have still not undergone more ancient processes of transforming the ingredient. The cuisine does not have a lot of transformative processes," says Mara Salles, a chef at the Tordesilhas restaurant, located in the city of São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil.

She recalls that this pure relationship between Brazilians and ingredients has its origins in the country’s indigenous roots. "The geography in Brazil made everything very easy for the indigenous people. We have a more favorable climate. In other countries in Latin America, such as Peru and Bolivia, in the Andes, the native people had serious problems with temperature; they had to make preserves, store food during the cold season, preserve potatoes in ash, that is, they had so many techniques that we didn't need. The native people here in Brazil harvested and ate. So, we ended up incorporating more of this natural quality, this simple thing, which makes the ingredient stand alone, makes it a protagonist," says Mara.

Carole Crema, a cook and pastry chef at La Vie en Douce, also located in São Paulo, not only agrees with her colleague, but also believes that local Brazilian ingredients are even better than those used in other famous regional cuisines around the world. "For example, there is a lot of talk about how amazing Mediterranean food is because of its amazing ingredients. But ours are much more incredible. We have an ingredient-based cuisine. It's very regional, very diverse. Brazilians in the north eat maniçoba, fish from the river. In the northeast they also eat a lot of cassava, coconut, there’s a huge variety in local fruit. This is Brazil. Our culture of food revolves around good ingredients," says Carole.

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