Friday, 29 August 2008

Açaí: love it or leave it

Every single person in Brazil knows what is açaí. Maybe the oldest people had never tried it, but the young people for sure eat it, or at least tried to eat it!

The açaí is the fruit of the palm known as açaizeiro. It is a plains species native of the Amazon region and it is a very important food in the diet of the inhabitants of the Amazon. In other regions of Brazil, like my city (Belo Horizonte) the açaí is prepared frozen, beating the pulp with guarana syrup creating a folder similar to an ice cream, occasionally adding fruit and cereals to it. It is delicious and it has lot of proteins and calories!

The first time I ate this açaí cream was in 1998, I think. Ten years ago!! It's not that easy to fall in love at the first sight for it. It tastes strange, unusual, exotic. But I really like it since the first time I have eaten it! But I know lot of people that don't like it and don't want to give a second chance to our amazon cream... Well, once more, we cannot argue about taste! But I always take all my friends from another country to taste açaí! The last time we talked about it with some friends from Boston, they said: “Ah, ACAI, we have it in US!”. Well, it's not acai, but I can't blame them. The letter 'ç' doesn't exist there, so this is the way they pronounce the name... So, our typical amazon fruit arrived to the US too. I know that exist some stores, mainly at surf points, that sell it. I hope US people like it!! Here in Europe I never saw it. If I am a failure as a journalist here or decide to change profession, I can think about opening a few shops that sell açaí! In hot places, of course... And I would pray to people love it, not leave it!

The other amazing thing about having some açaí cream is that you have to hang out! Well, you can go to the shop, order a take away pot and come back home, but this is not cool! The best thing is to invite some friends, go to the shop, sit at a table on the sidewalk, talk and have some açaí. I prefer it with strawberries plus strawberry syrup! Not mixed, but on top. But you can choose to mix it with the fruit you want and have a new experience! This is really an awesome way to spend time with your best friends and I miss it all weekends here...

So, if you have the chance, try some açaí and tell me if you “love it or leave it”!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

(Brazilian) cakes... and cook

One of the easiest food to find and to cook in a vegan version are cakes or pies! I have never missed cakes because I always cook them at home. In Brazil it's more common to have cakes and not pies – at least at home. I am not a great cook, I like to do some stuff, but not everyday. I have to be on the right mood to cook. But, most of the times I like to cook cakes. And most of the times, the ones that come in a box with all the ingredients and you just need to mix them up and bake the cake. My friends say that when they try to cook these ones, the final result is not good, but all cakes I did in my life are great! Well, at least my husband and all my friends love them. Because of that, I always cook all birthday cakes, including my own one.

My favorite flavor is chocolate. But I like the others too. I don't know if I had eaten one cake that I didn't like, probably yes, but I think I have a selective memory that just keeps good memories. Yesterday, I decided to cook a chocolate cake here in Italy. I bought one of these box ones and tried the same way I do in Brazil: ignore the eggs, put more butter and soy milk. It has always worked... until yesterday. I was in the kitchen, excited with my first Italian cake experience, but when I started to mix the stuff I realized that something wasn't good, it didn't look good. But I decided to finish it and bake it. After 30 minutes I took a look and it was terrible. Thin and raw. Ok, let's try 20 minutes more. Nothing changed. Another 15 minutes. And my mother in law trying to support me. At the end, I gave up, confirming that it was terrible. Not the taste, but the appearance. Oh my God, lucky me I don't work making cakes, I could have been fired today!We let it there, in the kitchen, until today when I tasted it and it was good!! So, we decided to eat it with ice cream. Not too bad, but I have to start to cook cakes here in the traditional way: mixing all the ingredients and not using the box cakes.

Before I start to cook the real cakes, I'm pretty sure I will just eat the Italian pies that my husband's sister cooks! They are awesome and they deserve an exclusive post ;-)

PS. Of course the cake in the picture is not the last one! I cooked this one for my husband's last birthday... In Brazil, as you know!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Days of fast food

There are two kinds of people: the ones that love fast food and the ones that hate it. I love it. And yes, you won’t read here anything about food I hate, but believe me, it exists. Well, being vegan or not, fast food has been part of my life. Hamburger + French fries + Coke is an amazing combo!

I don’t eat this kind of food everyday, I know it is not a healthy choice, but if it was, I would live of fast food!! Usually, a vegan hamburger is not that trashy thing, because you don’t need to fry it. At home we use to bake it, and since we are not used to have a real dinner, we have always prepared some kind of sandwiches with it and it is really good! But the best thing is the fried burger ;-)

We went to Belgium last weekend to see a hardcore festival in a wonderful city called Ieper. Three days of festival, three days of fast food! They have a team who prepares all the food. And everything is vegan. We could choose between croissants, chocolate buns, sandwiches (burgers and hot dogs), lunch meals and pies. Our choice was the burger! For all days!!!! It was delicious. A big, big, big sandwich (super size me!) with an awesome burger, salad and a special sauce in a bread that tastes like focaccia. Yes, it was easy to eat just it during three days. Yes, I could eat it again right now.

Around the world there are great options of vegan burgers. In Brazil, you can find some places in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte for sure. I don’t know about the other Brazilian cities, you can help, be free to post here! In Europe it’s easier to find them. Even in a city like Ieper – that is small – we could find a place that has vegan options. I never went to the US, but everyone says that, no matter the place you go, there will always be a fast food place with vegan options.

So, don’t think that being vegetarian or vegan, people are fast food free and just eat salad. This is a personal choice and my choice includes this amazing food that some people call trash.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Coffee deserves even a song

“Coffee was first consumed in the 9th century, when it was discovered in the highlands of Ethiopia. From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, Indonesia and the Americas. Today, coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide.” (Wikipedia) That’s great! Here I am, having one of the best coffees in the world: the Italian one.

When I was younger, I used to love the smell of coffee but I didn’t like to drink it. Every day, during one year, the best part of my way back home from school was one specific block that had the delicious smell of coffee. I used to walk slowly in that block just to feel the smell for a little bit more. All adults around me had coffee every day and then I thought that coffee was a drink of adults, since I was a child and I didn’t like it!

I grew up and I don’t remember exactly when or how, but I started to drink coffee too, I think it was before I became an adult! The thing is that we really have a wonderful coffee in Brazil and I think we are the biggest producer of it in the world. Maybe we don’t have the best way to do it, I have to say! Especially, the espresso coffee! The first time I drank one in Italy I felt the difference. We have the same Italian espresso machines in Brazil, but we use double the water to make one coffee. So, the taste here is better, and stronger. Maybe some Brazilian people can think it’s too strong. To me it is perfect!

My mother in law uses to make a caffè macchiato, which is a shot of espresso marked with a small amount of foamed milk (in my case, soy milk) dabbed on top with a spoon and served in a demitasse! This is awesome and I really drink it everyday! She has a handmade espresso machine that makes the best coffee in the world, I swear! And I owe you one picture of it!

When I went to London, some years ago, I fell in love with Starbucks (it didn’t exist in Brazil until one or two years ago)! And I fell in love with the Mocha coffee (which is basically a Brazilian cappuccino, because it has chocolate added usually). I had never drunk a vegan cappuccino before, so when I did I was in heaven (you may have noticed I go to heaven with many kinds of food and drink…). But after that, we went to Caffè Nero, the largest independent coffee retailer in the UK (and an Italian store)(picture). That was real love. I wish I could have one store close to me!!

Resuming, coffee is awesome. It could be the drink of the gods. And it is so good that deserved a song, recorded by Frank Sinatra, in 1960:

The lyrics are funny and talk about the Brazilian coffee during that time. It proves that we love coffee. For decades! Yes, I know lot of people that don’t like coffee, but we should not argue about religion, politics and taste. Nobody is perfect…

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Everything ends in pizza!

In Brazil we have an expression when the issue is politics that says “Everything ends in pizza!” It started on sports, with a political internal fight in Palmeiras (a soccer team from São Paulo with Italian founders), during the 60s. A reporter went to the Palmeiras club office to cover the attempt of agreement between the parts, and it went on a surprising way, with both sides happy. To wrap up the agreement, everybody went to a pizzeria to celebrate. The next day, the newspaper published "Fight in Palmeiras ends in pizza." The term, by the time, have being used to refer to all the fights in political scandals and accusations because at the end everything ends up well (for them). Nowadays, the term is very popular and had replaced the other one "everything ends in samba".

Well, I have to agree that when something ends in pizza, it is really cool! Pizza is awesome. I really don’t need any reason to go out to eat pizza or to ask for a pizza at home. But, if somebody needs one, I can give you tons of reasons!!

I had heard that the best pizza ever is made in Napoli. That makes sense. South of Italy is famous for the pizza. I have never been there, but I tasted a “Napolitan” one some days ago in a pizzeria in Bologna (picture) and it was fantastic! The biggest difference I can notice between the Brazilian pizza and the Italian pizza is the bread base of the pizza and the tomato sauce. In Italy the base is thinner and vegan (in Brazil some places use eggs or milk, don’t ask me why!) and they use a lot more of tomato sauce, which makes all kinds of pizza good, including the simplest one: marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil.

After eating the marinara pizza, I can say I am very happy being vegan! You can ask one and add whatever you want to be put on it: anchovies, mushrooms, olives, etc. It’s awesome!! I really could eat this everyday! Ah, I almost forgot the craziest thing in Italy about pizza!! You ask one pizza for each person!! And a big one! In Brazil pizza comes like clothes. You have all kinds of sizes: individual, small, medium, large and extra-large. And you choose it considering the number of people that eat it. Here no. If you are 4, you have 4 pizzas.

The only thing I still want to do concerning the pizza theme is going to London or US to eat a margherita pizza, with vegan mozzarella. That’s like a dream and I know I will realize it, so prepare yourself to another pizza post in the future.

And this post ends in pizza! ;-)

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Every day is an ice cream day!

Today is a happy day. And to match the mood of the day, I will talk about the best food in the world: ice cream! I don’t know if there are people that don’t like ice cream (maybe yes, because there are people that don’t like chocolate either ant this so weird to me…). But, OK, I am just crazy about ice cream!

Since I became vegan I have just been able to find (in Brazil) fruit ice cream. It was impossible to have a good chocolate one or similar. Just the fruit ones! No problem at all because I like them too, but they are made of water and they aren’t creamy. So, I have been years waiting for my first chocolate (or vanilla, or coffee, or nuts) vegan ice cream… And I still can remember when that happened! It’s something like being in heaven! Yes, it is. Ice cream makes people happy. I swear! And a creamy one makes people happier! I swear again!! And a milk shake is… I have no words for the milk shake! Someone please help me.

Now, imagine me, living in a place where you can find all kind of vegan ice cream even at the smaller supermarket in the smaller city of the country! Yes, I'm having ice cream every single day. OK, now it is easier because it’s summer time. But I really don’t care. The last time we came to Italy it was Christmas time, the weather was too cold for me (something between +2 and -4 degrees) and I could not stop eating ice cream. People thought I was crazy, insane maybe… But I didn’t care, I was so happy and that’s the most important thing.

And when I am sad or discouraged I find in ice cream a good stimulus. Most of the women use sugar or chocolate to feel better, I have an ice cream. It makes my day better. It makes the world better! And on some days, when my husband realizes I am sad and offers me an ice cream, if he gets the answer “no, thanks”, that is really a bad, bad day. A day when everyone around worries about me.

So, if you are having a good day, have an ice cream to celebrate. And if it is a bad day, have two to be happy!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Rice and beans

Rice with beans is the best Brazilian combination to eat! It is good, it is easy to do and it is very nutritious too. When you are vegan, it is one of the best ways to combine nutrient ingredients and have an awesome meal: rice, beans, soy meat and potatoes, for example, is a good combination.

Separated from beans, I don’t like rice that much, but it is one of the most traditional parts of a daily Brazilian meal. We have our own way to cook rice: put first the oil, than garlic and onion and the rice (two cups, for example). Let it fry and then put enough water and let it boil for a while. Close the pot, lower the fire, and let the rice cook. When it’s well dried, it’s ready to serve. I really don’t know how people cook rice around the world (I would like to know!) because I just tried the Italian way and they use just that specific rice to make the risotto.

About the beans, I love them! There are lots of recipes and I just love all of them! But, to eat rice with beans, the right way to cook the beans it’s almost the same to cook the rice. You really have to cook them and not to buy canned beans at the supermarket! I won’t explain all the process, but you have to let them cook in a pressure pot for 20 minutes and after that you put the oil, garlic, onion and salt and let it cook again… The final result is awesome! The best beans ever!! I'm sorry about everyone that is used to eat them in a can, but it is not the same.

That’s it… One food I really miss in Europe is the Brazilian couple rice and beans!

PS. To all my Brazilian friends: yes, of course you know how to cook rice and beans but I thought that the world should know that too to try to understand it! ;-P

Friday, 15 August 2008

The breakfast

I always wake up hungry. I’m not that kind of person who opens the eyes and think “Hmmm I don’t want to eat anything…” Moreover, I think I just really wake up after a good breakfast.

It’s usually said that in some cultures the breakfast is an important meal, which gives us the strength to spend the rest of the day. And I agree!! I’m nobody before putting something in the mouth. Of course, that idea of American breakfast, with millions of calories is not my case! Even before being a vegetarian, a dish of fried eggs with bacon couldn't make my day. But I really care about this first meal.

I’m not the “talking” type in the morning, so I don’t see the social side of a breakfast. You can talk about whatever you want, but during that time, it’s not my point! I just need to eat! Prepare everything, seat and eat. Without television, without music, without a newspaper or a book, without a dialog! Just me and the awesome company of an orange juice, bread, biscuits, jelly, chocolate soy milk, coffee… and that’s it, good morning life!

PS. In Italy I learnt an awesome way to eat bread or toasts: put first the butter (vegetarian butter in my case) and than marmalade. I prefer berry jelly, but you can taste some before you decide!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The beginning

I don’t know exactly when or how my interest in food started. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that kind of child that eats all day, and neither a paranoid teenager… Still today, I don’t think a lot about the relation food x getting fat. But, in the last years, I've been having a strong relationship with the verb eat and the universe around food!

I think that the big change happened when I became vegan. It was 1997 and I’m pretty sure that after this happened I started to pay more attention to eat and what to eat. So the rest came along with it. Eleven years ago it wasn’t easy to be vegan in Brazil. I had to learn how to cook, how to search for vegan food at the supermarket, on the street, all around the world. All of this because of an adjustment to a new diet. Yes, this was the beginning of my big interest in the world of food and drinks.

For those who don’t know, a small note: a vegan person doesn’t use any product derived from animals. In other words, a person who doesn’t eat meat, fish, or any animal product as milk, eggs, cheese, honey, etc. And more, that doesn’t use fur or leather. And that boycotts any type of animal farm, circus, rodeos or tests on animals.

Resuming, a big part of my current life has a relation with food! And I can be happy just because of it!

So, welcome to my world. All about... food!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin