Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tasty Cultural Connections


Brazilian culture overflows with rich African cultural connections and in Bahia, you can taste as well as see it. I explored classic Brazilian dishes spiced with African influences in a post for Galavanting Magazine's travel blog here but I didn't explain the depth of the Nigerian influence on acaraje. Eating acaraje is practically a legal requirement when you visit Salvador. In London, you must nibble fish and chips, dripping with grease and wrapped in paper. In Jamaica, you must savor ackee and saltfish cooled with sea breezes. And in Salvador, you must buy acaraje from a Baiana de acaraje, on the cobble-stoned streets with samba rhythms blasting through the air.

Acaraje is a black-eyed pea fritter fried in palm oil. Typically, it's cut in half and topped with caruru, an okra stew, vatapa a mixture blended with dried shrimp, cashews, peanuts and coconut milk and a salad made of chopped tomatoes and onions. Peppery and laden with fat, it is the quintessential Brazilian fast food. In Nigeria, it is also a popular snack and breakfast staple called akara. The je on the Brazilian term simply means to eat so the dish is a direct transport from West African culture, where it is prepared similarly. Baiana de acaraje's, serving up these delicacies wearing white laced dresses and buoyant head wraps called torsos, underscore the Nigerian element even more. If you've ever seen a Yoruba woman parading in her finery, you've seen the essence of Baianas de acraje's legendary grace. A considerable portion of Brazil's population trace their heritage to Nigeria and other Western African countries. Acaraje highlights those roots with tasty flavor. A special shout out to Floyd for reminding me about these points!

6 comments:

AngelaCorrias said...

How many memories! I've been to Brazil so many times and it is really fascinating how they kept their African roots so alive. I had done a study on their eclectic religion and the origins of the Macumba, known as black magic but really just their own religion they kept practising secretely. Yoruba is the language they use for the Macumba. It's amazing that after all these centuries living far from their countries they still have their traditions. Bahia is the heart of Brasil, but I could see some Macumba rituals in Rio de Janeiro as well, very moving...

Fly Girl said...

I'm glad this brings back good memories Angela! Macumba is another form of the Yoruba religion practiced in Brazil along with candomble. Yes, the Yoruba presence is very stron but also the Bantu and Fon ethnic groups. I'll be discussing this in more detail when I explore candomble. Thanks for dropping by!

Lily said...

Hi there!! I've been thinking of going to Bahia...agh! sounds lovely. So I got back from barbados, it was very interesting - I got to see the ENTIRE island (by car)...going through all the parishes, all the towns etc. stopping along the way (not an organized tour but 2 friends of a friend who live there). It was amazing. Fashion-wise--not much there AT ALL...but I didn't focuse on it. Instead I decided to get more of the cultural experience. It's going to be a couple months before I can sit down and pitch to publications on what I saw, but soon come! :-) How's writing coming? haven't been in NAtrawrimo in a minute...! Thanks for commenting on my blog!!:)

MzTravelDiva said...

Oooo you have Bahia calling me! I've linked up this story on our latest "Flight Board"...come check you out :)

Wanderluster said...

Brazil has been calling me for a long time... this gets me dreaming even more so!

Fly Girl said...

Thanks travel diva and wanderluster, I hope you both join me for the rest of the trip!