My Brazilian Culture Trip

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics may be over but the Paralympics are about to start (7–18 September), and my exploration of Brazil continues. It struck me towards the end of the Olympics that the only Brazilian food I ever had tried was bolitas, which is actually called pão de queijo, so having begun my further tasting of Brazil with some awful-tasting spicy chilli samba and Brazilian salsa style Pringles – the former was boring and the latter was too salty, though I was too hyped up to admit to their faults before – here are some better ways to get into the Rio spirit.


Manioc and tapioca, ideally. But it is hard to get your hands on these ingredients in the UK, so are the things you can make easily. Moqueca, a seafood stew with tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime, cilantro, and coconut milk, feijoada, a beef or pork (or both – I chose just beef) stew with black beans, bacon, onion, garlic, and chorizo, and bauru, a sandwich where a bread roll has the crumb (the soft inside) removed and filled with melted mozzarella and slices of roast beef, tomato and pickle. It was created when a student from the city of Bauru walked into a café in São Paulo and made a custom order, which became popular with the customers. I made my lazy version with bread rolls, cold slices of roast beef, unmelted mozzarella, plum tomatoes, and cornichons.

If you’re wanting to eat out, you can get a taste of everything at Rodizio Preto, a Brazilian buffet franchise where passadors come by with roast meat on the spit and carve some for you if you have your dual coloured card the “serve me” side up. There’s also a salad and hot dishes bar, and if you still have room afterwards you can choose from the “not for eating” dessert options displayed for you so you know what they look like before you order. They do daily deals for soft drinks and cocktails. At the Victoria branch in London I had a “Rodizio Grill” (£19.95), which unless you’re a vegetarian you wouldn’t pass over since the price for the buffet without the roast meat is £17.95, and a Guarana (£2.95), Brazil’s most popular soda, which I was not a fan of for its slightly medicinal flavour, similar to a fruity cough syrup.

If your appetite still isn’t sated, browse one of my favourite food blogs on WordPress, Eating the World, for all food Brazilian.


The Instagram posts of Brazil’s artists who give the country the happy and vibrant image that foreigners associate with Brazil. Eduardo Kobra is a street artist who was commissioned to beautify Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Vitor Schietti is a photographer who takes long-exposure shots that captures tendrils of light veiling nighttime scenes. Julio Cesar is a character designer who’s brilliant at turning people into cartoon characters. Butcher Billy is a pop artist who  shot to fame last year for his reimaginings of Kim Jong-Un as iconic heroes and villains. Lucas Levitan populates other people’s Instagam posts with his own illustrated character.


To The Invention of Brazil, a gripping BBC Radio 4 podcast series in 3 parts, charting the birth of a nation from the arrival of the Portuguese colonists to its  period of playing host to the Portuguese monarchy in exile, ending with its early years as a Republic, and not missing out any of the other immigrant groups that have made Brazil the multicultural nation it is today. As for Brazilian music, it is just as rich as Brazilian history, and is more than just The Girl from Ipanema. Let Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole introduce 6 more Brazilian songs to you through elaborating on the sound, lyrics and music videos, and listen to clips from the Tropicalia movement which rejected the perfect notions of bossa nova and was one of the many sounds of revolution.

Here’s what Brazilians have to say about Brazil:

“We are a passionate race, we dress sexily, we like to live well, we’re not workaholics and we have fun. Brazilians love being in love.” – Isabeli Fontana, model

‘My Brazil is a country of opposites: concrete and nature, high and low, new and prehistoric, and so on. The visual language of Brazil can be equally contrary. It’s a new country with a strong modernist tradition, but also a colonial past that references a more baroque aesthetic, as well as remnants of early societies with an emphasis on nature and mystery.” – Barbara Cassaola, fashion designer

“Cariocas find its essence at the beach, a truly democratic place, where people from all races and ages meets together to exercise and enjoy the sun and the sand. And, while the sun heats up routine life in Rio, it is the sea and the sinuous movement of its tides that set the laid back rhythm of its locals. “Let’s go for a beer and a dip in the sea” is an expression you will hear all the time, any time – because Rio is really on its own time. Why? Maybe because of its embracing mountains, that isolate Rio from the rest of the world and turn it into an untouchable paradise.” – Gisela Pecego, print designer


About forced labour in Brazil: If you’ve been listening to The Invention of Brazil, you’ll know that Brazil had a slave trade that lasted longer than in Britain and America, countries which we normally associate with slavery. Deep in the heart of the Amazon, the fight to end slavery goes on. In the cities, another group of invisible people exist: the homeless. Through RIO invisível (invisible Rio) you can read into the lives of the homeless in the second largest city in Brazil. The people are not hopeless though, and channel their frustrations creatively. The inadequacies of the public transport system prompted an award-winning community project to provide bus stop signage. Favela folk let off steam in style by launching sky lanterns. In cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro this was a criminal offence but used to carry a light sentence, and so persisted until the 1990’s when the prison sentence was extended from months to years. Nowadays, there are two camps among the balloonists, or baloeiros: one champions the fire-less “green” balloon, and the other maintains that fire is the soul of the balloon. And Pajubá, a whole new way of speaking that is deemed an “anti-language”, was invented to protect the transvestite community.

For more serious reading of Brazilian literature,here are recommendations from three “Best of Young Brazilians Novelists” and a  July 2016 Issue from Words Without Borders which explores Brazil through local and foreign literature and features an excerpt from the masterpiece of one of Brazil’s greatest authors, João Guimarães Rosa.

With new species of river dolphin and miniature frogs having been discovered recently in 2014 and 2015 and as one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet, Brazil also has many wildlife stories to tell. The Amazon Rainforest is home to the world’s most venomous frog, a frog found only in Brazil which is so poisonous that a single sting can kill 80 humans, like David against eighty Goliaths. The rainforest doesn’t hog all the attention: This heartwarming story about Dindim the penguin who visits the human who rescued him for a few months every year went viral.


City of God

Cidade de Deus (City of God), one of the best gangster films I’ve seen, with a masterful narrative that jumps forwards and backwards in time. Most of the actors were inhabitants of the Cidade de Deus, a slum in Rio de Janeiro – this was Slumdog Millionaire before Slumdog Millionaire, only it didn’t win any of the 4 Oscars it was nominated for. For film buffs, here’s an introduction to other Brazilian filmmakers.

“The movie is like an amphetaminized compendium of every juvenile-delinquent fable and urban-mob saga ever made.” – Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun

The Girl from Ipanema: Brazil, Bossa Nova and the Beach, a documentary presented by Katie Derham (a TV and radio presenter who starred in Strictly Come Dancing 2015) that tells the story behind the jazz-inspired musical movement that hit America by storm just as the Beatles did, and takes us on a journey from the birth of Bossa Nova out of the rhythms of samba to its rejection by the Brazilians in times of revolution.

Rio 2

Rio 2, sequel to the animation Rio, which tells of a Spix’s macaw’s return to the Amazon rainforest with his family and quest to protect their home from destruction. Planned for release at the time of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it not only showcases Brazilian culture but includes an avian football match. Too cheesily charming, some critics say, but  to me more fun than the first Rio film.

That’s it for today – follow me on Twitter to stay updated on my Brazilian culture trip! I would love to hear your suggestions for all things Brazil-related to do too, so tweet me or leave me a comment below!


In search of England

If you’re looking to holiday “at home” in England this summer, as many are doing because of Brexit and terrorism, think about York! Not only is it one of the most English-feeling cities I’ve stayed in, but this city has many layers of history and a laidback attitude that Londoners lack, and is now my 2nd favourite city in England after London. Whereas previous places I’ve stayed in have been good for transport connections but were themselves unexciting, York ticks both boxes and more. Continue reading


It’s been a month since I left The Pigeonhole, a digital publishing start-up, so for Throwback Thursday I’m going to recount my unexpected moments there:

  • Stroking a taxidermied pigeon.
  • Setting a lunch trend.
  • Encountering questionable websites in my media list research.
  • Trying to concentrate with a dog’s head heating up my lap.
  • Arguing over Brexit with everyone but the dog.
  • Receiving a photo of a newborn baby in an email.
  • Eating “the best falafel in London”.

Best in class

Flat Iron webpage

The Flat Iron made its way onto my list of “places to eat” easily. The restaurant was recommended to me by my Dad – who over the course of his brief stay now knows better places to eat in London than me – via a Chinese website promoting the best value London eats, and in reviews closer to home it ranks among the top places to eat for steak-lovers in London. A fine reputation among both local and foreign diners was all it took, plus a special occasion to justify yet another dining-out night. Continue reading



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