Sandra was born in the little bairro (village) of Japaqueira, Sau Paulo. She comes from a large family of eight children. “I was born poor and I grew up from the poor section of Sau Paulo”, Sandra says. Today, though, she considers herself no longer poor as she says, “I have worked hard to get myself ‘out of the mud’ and to be where I am now.” She can now afford to buy whatever fancy food she wants but she says basically, her taste for food has remained as simple as when she was growing up in Sau Paulo. “In those days our food was different from the food of the people from the high society- – theirs was better-tasting. Theirs was more of European influence- -Italian, French, German- – their food was more elaborate, sautéed in more expensive ingredients, more sophisticated. Ours was more of the native Indian influence.
We told Sandra that “better-tasting” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthier”. In fact, many countries in the world have simple traditional food that is far more nutritious, delicious and healthy than those of foreign influences. And she smiled, perhaps realizing the truthfulness of the statement. “I guess you’re right. My grandmother had 16 children and they were fed the same basic simple food that our family was fed on. And the children all survived healthy and strong. My grandmother herself died at the age of 90 plus and so did her mother before her!
So what is this traditional Brazilian food that Sandra considers inferior to European dishes in terms of sophistication- -and yet she admits is the source of her family’s good health and longevity? Traditional Brazilian food, Sandra explains, is basically rice and beans – – all varieties and shapes of bean: red beans, white beans, brown beans, pink beans. “We also have all varieties and shapes of rice. We don’t eat plain, steamed rice like Asians do. First we wet the rice, and then drain the water. Then in a pot we sauté garlic and onion with soja (soya oil). Then we put the rice and water in (equal amounts) and salt and cook.”
“Nowadays, there is this big issue about beans being gas-producing. Maybe if you eat a lot of beans alone. But rice and beans have been found in studies to be a perfect combination of food. And we Brazilians have eaten this combination for thousands of years. If there is any gas at all, we Brazilians just let it out freely! No problem,” says Sandra with a merry laugh.
Traditional Brazilian food, Sandra explains, is basically rice and beans…