Tuesday, 20 December 2011
One of my favourite memories of growing up in Santos is riding my bike along the beachfront gardens, so I felt quite nostalgic when a childhood friend sent me this video. The first image that caught my attention was the iconic black and white Portuguese pavement wave design (which you also get in Rio); it instantly took me back there. The kids in the video itself reminded me of the last time I went to Santos last year; it captures the beach culture perfectly. I remember being mesmerised by the skill of the kids on skate, surf and stand-up paddle boards.
Santos may not be on the tourist trail but I love it. It's about an hour from São Paulo by car and its beachfront garden at 5.335 km in length made the Guinness Book of Records as the largest beachfront garden in the world. There's also a football memorial, dedicated to the city's greatest players, including Pelé (my grandad was his taxi driver, remember), and a coffee museum - Santos has the biggest sea port in Latin America, which handles a large portion of the world's coffee exports.
I also remember getting a car ferry to Guarujá, which has some absolutely beautiful beaches.
Sunday, 18 December 2011
At the Drapers Christmas lunch last week, we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts and my present was a Brazilian food feast. Well, actually, as the note inside said, it was really a selection of goodies from my "great, great grandmother country, a nation of salt cod and crying footballers - Portugal".
My colleague, whose Secret Santa identity I guessed straight away, was making a reference to Portugal's colonization of Brazil in 1500. Brazil is the only country in South America whose official language is Portuguese. But enough of the history lesson - you can Google all that.
Among the goodies Steve gave me were paçoquinha (a peanut butter-like sweet), bolo de mel (a heavy, honey-based cake) and two patés, one of sardines and the other of tuna. He bought the presents at a lovely Portuguese deli called Ferreira on Delancey St in Camden. It's full of local produce, with a few Brazilian treats, too. Check it out and tell me what you think.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
The statistics make for depressing reading. Every minute an area of Amazon rainforest the size of three football pitches disappears. For every 40 metres of road created, 600 square kilometres of forest is lost. Whilst several of the photographs at Somerset House's "Amazon" exhibition brilliantly portray this damning situation, the exhibition itself leaves you with a sense of hope rather than desperation.
This is largely down to the efforts of the local communities of Acre, a state in north-west Brazil, whose lives are beautifully depicted by photographer Per-Anders Pettersson. Their optimism, work ethic and strong sense of community are admirable. And this is set against the most incredible landscapes.
In another room are photos of indigenous tribes, the Alto Xingu and the Zo'é, by Sebastião Salgado, which show a way of living that you’d think would be the stuff of fantasy; men jumping between trees as they hunt for monkeys.
How could anyone want to destroy all this? Yet, for money, many do. The aim of this exhibition is to support Sky Rainforest Rescue, a three-year project by Sky and WWF to help save one billion trees in Acre.
Sky and WWF want to raise £2m, which Sky will meet pound for pound to take the total to £4m, to help make the trees worth more alive than dead by:
1. providing support for local people to preserve their forest and use the land sustainably
2. helping to identify new market opportunities for sustainable forest products, including rubber production (Veja shoes support this)
3. supporting the Acre state government to monitor deforestation
4. engaging with governments and international bodies to address the causes of deforestation
To help this important cause, visit www.sky.com/rainforestrescue. The Somerset House exhibition runs until December 18. Go and see it; it's beautiful.
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Last weekend, the main thoroughfare in Primrose Hill transformed into a village fete, complete with food and gift stalls and fairground rides. I spotted a Brazilian flag flapping in the wind above one of the stalls, so naturally, made my way straight there. The smell was pretty alluring too.
I joined a long queue, which kept growing, to find out more. The stall was serving a variety of hot dishes, including Brazil’s national dish, feijoada (a bean and meat stew). Among the other beef and chicken stew-like options, was a vegetarian ratatouille. I think this was the stall owner’s way of appealing to all taste buds; as far as I’m aware, vegetarian "ratatouille" is not a traditional Brazilian dish.
I was surprised not to see some of the smaller, savoury snacks that I remember from living in Brazil, like the pastel (a pasty) or empadinha (also like a pasty, but more crumbly, and not fried). But when I spoke to the owner – and judging by the amount of people queuing – he said the feijoada was by far the most popular choice. The appreciative noises as diners dug in supported his comments. And I’m pleased. It’s good to see non Brazilians try a dish that, quite frankly, doesn’t look particularly appealing, but is absolutely delicious (I eat it without the meat…).
I also found out that the stall is a regular at the Brunswick Centre Saturday market. I tried to get more information from the owner, but the woman behind me got impatient and asked me to hurry up. Maybe she just couldn’t wait to get her own helping of feijoda. Or, she’s probably more used to being waited on than waiting.