Page 1 of 3
by Marcelo Lima
Food photographs courtesy of Manual do Churrasco Magazine
Grilled baby beef
Brazil is a huge country with many different heritages. Much like Americans, the Brazilian people are the sum of all the immigrants that moved in since these lands were discovered on April 22, 1500 (there's a little controversy on this date, but it's close enough). There seems to be a dominant presence of African, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese descendants (did you know that São Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan?). Let's not forget that a significant part of the Brazilian people have a cultural heritage that dates back to the ones that were here when the Europeans arrived—the Native American Indians.
That being said, each different group of immigrants adapted at least a little bit of their culinary habits to the making of a barbecue. For instance, the Brazilian gaucho way of experiencing a churrasco is strongly influenced by Italian and German cuisines. This is because the Brazilian southern states bordering Argentina and Uruguay (Rio Grande do Sul being the furthest one south), are where most of the Italian and German immigrants established themselves in Brazil.
Gauchos are the cowboys of Brazil.
Such influence translates itself into the herbs and spices that some recipes call for, and in the side dishes that complete a churrasco meal (for example, the italian polenta). However, it should be noted that when it comes to seasoning the meat itself, usually coarse salt alone will get the job done. The gaucho churrasco is also strongly influenced by neighboring countries Argentina and Uruguay. Gauchos are not just Brazilians. The gaucho concept is more related to a particular region of South America—the Rio da Prata Valley, part of which is called the pampas, which includes lands in Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), Argentina and Uruguay. Saying that the gauchos are the cowboys of the pampas is an accurate description of what they do. It seems to me that the gaucho way of making a barbecue is more related to the culture of our southern neighbors. The Brazilian gauchos are a very peculiar and different community in comparison to everyone else in the rest of Brazil.