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August Edition
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Hello Everyone!
This trip to Brazil has been transformative, it has been a great chance to catch with family and friends but so much more. I also had an ulterior motive - taking this opportunity to learn more about ancestral fermentation drinks. Some from the Amazon, my father’s homeland and some from farther afield.
Recipe to come!
This has been such an eventful month. But let’s start at the beginning… I first landed in Sao Paulo, where I am from and my immediate family still lives. I had a chance to get some much-needed R&R before I threw myself at the adventures that were waiting for me…
After my batteries were recharged, I went to see aunt and cousins in Manaus, AM. Nestled in the heart of the jungle it is its capital, just by the mighty Amazon. There I had a chance to start my research learning about different drinks from different ethnic groups of indigenous people. I learnt about caxiri, pajuaru, caium and alua – drinks mades from local tubers and roots, like cassava and yams. But also drinks made with exotic fruits such as cupuacu and acai…
I also started to gather that is a realm of other ancestral drinks, the ones that started during colonial times and slave trade in Brazil. Alua is one that particularly comes to mind. It has its origins as a wild beer in West Africa. However, it becomes something else entirely when it arrives in Brazil. It becomes mainly a non (or very low) alcoholic refreshing drink, made mainly with pineapple skins or sometimes corn or rice. It is still widely drunk to this day in the North and Northeast. It used to be common every else too, up to a few decades ago (my mother still remembers making as a young woman).
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In Manaus I also had a chance to do some touristy things I had not done in many many years, especially a river trip. I went once again to see the Encontro dos Rios (the river meet up). The Amazon River as we know, starts rights there outside Manaus, the Negro River and Solimoes River meet up.  For me it’s one of the natural wonders of the world and a thing to behold… Because of different acidity and density, they flow side by side for miles until finally join away.
It is also so humbling being out in the water there, to feel in human scale the sheer dimension of what is called the sea river. You simply cannot see the other shore, and it is impressed how all the people that came before and made their lives by these waters.
River Dolphins!
After the Amazon, which I went on my own, I went with unit, iw husband and child, somewhere I had never been before in Brazil. Bonito, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, is known for its natural beauty and it’s the centre of eco-tourism in Brazil. It has crystalline rivers, caves, wild animals and radical sport everywhere - all that a small (and big) boy could wish for.
In between our family time, I was able to get some first hand experience in ancestral fermented drinks too. In particular, I had been invited for a unique experience to come into a Guarani Kaiowaa community in Mato Grosso do Sul and learn about their traditional drink: chicha.
If at this point you are getting a bit confused with all my travels here is a map of Brazil, here is a refresher for you:
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I think at this point a little historical background is important. There has been much reported about violation of indigenous rights in Brazil and increasing deforestation of the original forest in the Amazon and all the original peoples I met so far. However, few know about the specific issues faced by the Guarani e Kaiowaa.
Their original territory has long been encroached by cattle farming, but since the 70's there has been a lot of increased pressure from government in occupation of the area and clearing for industrial agricultural practices. The level of displacements and aggression against Guarani Kawoia reached unimaginable levels. Since the 90's the indigenous leaderships fought back claiming ancestral land, which led to increased clashes with the land owners. It has reached breaking in the last few years before the pandemic. If you would like to know more I suggest watching this video on the UN report:
At that point the UN claimed it an ethnocide for this population, as their way of life was been erased and its people and culture. That was even before our last president, Jair Bolsonaro, who was always openly dismissive of indigenous peoples rights and pro big-farming.
I have felt extremely honoured to be welcome by a Kaiowaa family learn about chicha. This a fermented drink at the heart of their celebrations and it made solely by the women, from harvest (usually local sweet potato or white corn) to the cooking, processing and overseeing of the fermentation process. Unfortunately, not many families continue to make their own – this embattled history of the Guarani e Kaiowaa meant that a lot traditional knowledge and transmission of it on the familial living has been lost too.
Overall, learned and lived so much that would be impossible to share in just one post. I intend to a series running here and some more in-depth material on my website, possibly a youtube channel.
In the meantime, I am back to UK this week and straight into the Frome Independent Market this weekend. Our program of workshops will start again in couple of weeks, check our website for all our dates… and we are still running our Early Bird discount!
I hope to see you soon.
This Month I am Cooking… 
I didn’t do much cooking this month, but boy oh boy there was a lot of eating done.
1. All the tropical fruit, for breakfast, every day.
2. Pe-de-moleque in Manaus, a traditional fermented cassava dough with freshly cracked Brazil nut wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over coals.
3. I ate all the pastel de palmito I could possibly find, anywhere I was in Brazil. I am addicted, but my favourite one was the Manioca Restaurant in Sao Paulo.
4. Farinha do Uarini a coarse cassava flour, typical of Manaus. We had as a boat snack but there a particularly good one at Biawtui Restaurant – a restaurant of Brazilian indigenous food.
5. Cakes for breakfast in the Zagaia hotel in Bonito (it is a thing in Brazilian cuisine, I know…).
Fresh Brazil nuts at the market
Palm Heart and Pineapple Fermented Salsa
Palmito or palm heart is hands down one my foods in any shape or form. In Brazil you can find different varieties, from preserved to fresh ones...
If you don’t know what it is, it basically the “heart” or trunk of some varieties of local palm trees. The one I used to eat as a kid, jucara, it's now a protected species of the very rare Atlantic Rain Forest.You cannot have it anymore, as the extraction of the heart kills the plant. Nowadays, they usually use pupunha or acai palm trees, as they can be sustainably harvested.
I know it is not as common in the UK but you can usually find some Green Giant ones in the canned vegetables section, and that would work just as well.
This is an easy peasy recipe, to be honest I love it eating fresh straight from the mixing bowl. If you can resist, it is even lovelier fermented. This is a super quick fermentation, one day- two days top as the sugars in the pineapple make it very active.
It is pineapple season over here but – alas – if you can’t find some nicely sweet ripe ones you can always look at some canned ones. The only change is that you might need to add a little boost or starter to your salsa to make it sure it fizzes!
It makes a great side dish for a BBQ but also works just as well in a lettuce wrap as little snack or to bulk up tacos too.
1 can palm hearts, roughly diced
4 slices of pineapple, roughly diced
2 red chillies, chopped (optional)
1 sprig of Thai basil
½ shallot or red onion
1 lime
Salt (2% of total weight if fermenting)
Mix all the prepared ingredients. You can adjust the chilli component, if you like it hot add some more. If you like it mild, de-seed them. Squeeze the lime and add the salt.
If you are eating straight up, I would suggest living it on the side for 10 minutes. This will allow the flavour to develop and juices to run.
If you are fermenting add to a screw top jar, packing it all tightly. You want to be able to fill the jar 1in from the top. Leave on a plate at the counter for 1-2 days. You will see bubbles rising from the side.
If you are using canned fruit, I would suggest add just 1 tsp of starter such as a brine from a fermented pickle or even kombucha. Not essential but it does give it a head start.
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Growing & Sharing
Here is some highlights of the amazing adventures I had this last month.
1. I spotted some impressive street art in Sao Paulo.
2. I went wild in the food markets in Manaus.
3. We swan with wild river pink dolphins at the Negro River.
4. We went cave exploring at Gruta do Lago Azul in Bonito.
5. I bathed in crystalline rivers and waterfalls of the Rio Formoso.