I would think twice before I convict Brazilian cuisine as being not laudable, like many New Age yogis, monks, foodies, healthies & Co. would do. Indeed, Brazilian cuisine is based on meet, beans, rice and manioca flour and these ingredients are not exactly the first choice for modern, healthy nourishing habits that avoid meet, carbs and fat. But before we start to roll our eyes when someone offers us deep fried beans pastry (btw. method of frying is invented in Europe, not in America) or we pull a (judgmental) face in front of a pot with feijoada complete, we have to become aware why we rather choose this globalized and over-expensive green kale smoothie with barley powder and spirulina.
We are rich. We (at least we on the western part of this planet) live in an abundance. We are full. And we have never been hungry. Yes, we know what appetite is, but we don’t have a clue, how it feels when an empty stomach starts to hurt, when you start to hallucinate from hunger and when this same hunger transforms you back into something you have been before- an animal. Italian cultural historians like Piero Camporesi narrate many dark and sad reports about cruel epochs in European history, when hunger destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. But hunger is not only the history that we’ve forgotten, it is also our present: Bangladesh, India, Argentina, Africa…
Differently than 100-200-300 years ago, when voluptuous bodies were an sign for wealth and hard work formed muscular bodies of poor people, today we have the reversed situation: fat belongs to poor people, who either don’t have a job, or have one that is computer-based and/or bad paid, so they can afford only unhealthy and high-calorie food. (But remember! Hunger doesn’t ask for a vitamin Z. Food is food.) On the other side, rich people fast surrounded by abundance. We badly want to destroy this fat that reminds us about everything we don’t want to be: poor, ugly, greedy, sick… So we practice pilates in the morning, yoga in the evening, we drink water and lemon for breakfast, take some vegan sausage for lunch and skip dinner, if we can. If not, we drink another glas of water, warm, with fresh mint leaves this time. Anorexia, Bulimia and various eating disorders collect their victims who don’t only want to be pretty, pure and healthy (or even immortal), but also a better human. We can call Bahians (a quote) “Fleisschfresser” (which means meet-gluttons) and we feel like better humans than they are. But we are not.
Yoga teaches us (among other wonderful things) how to practice ahimsa or non-violence in every segment of our lives, wich also includes food. In order to have a peaceful and harmonic communication with our environment, yoga suggests to eat in a way that doesn’t harm us, others and the whole nature. I truly believe that practicing (or at least trying to practice) a non-violence is an answer we should shout out loud. At the same time I can’t ignore a fact that already the old indian Vedas and their scripts, that are much older than yoga-sutras, saw in the process of eating itself something unharmonious, violent, but also something we can’t skip in order to survive. Like every process that destroys a part of the world, eating (and no matter if we eat plants, animals or people, we have to kill them first) was for Vedas a kind of a metaphysical evil. And this evil was omnipresent for their world understanding, that is different from now where we try to limit the evil only on intentional acts. Because of that, at least for me, a question about non-violent eating is a contradiction in itself. To keep the world order in balance, Vedas invented various rituals. We, on the other hand, developed ourselves far away from any cult, so it became very difficult for us to believe in those kind of rituals. Instead we started to kill unconsciously, to produce massively and we forgot to sacrifice. The question is: how should look like a modern eating ritual that supports a harmless communication between us and our environment? How can we stop manipulating and developing the power we have over our food?
My choice for today is this moqueca. (If you can’t go to Brazil, bring Brazil to you). Moqueca is Brazilian stew, slowly cooked in terra cotta or simple skillet. Originally, the recipe is based on fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic and coriander. Moqueca is served with cooked rice and farofa (roasted manioc flour combined with some butter). I adapted my recipe to Berlin, winter and vegetarians. Why moqueca? Because it is perfect example of how you can adapt a traditional dish to your modern taste, needs and wishes. For example: Instead of tropical fruits, vegetables and fish I used winter vegetables, mostly roots. As I didn’t have manioc flour I replaced it with wheat brans that bring very similar taste and texture like farofa has. Because I couldn’t find in Berlin bananas for cooking, I added cranberries to the recipe. To boost everything with some more vitamins, I took sunflower and hemp seeds and some fresh sprouts. Moqueca is mixture of Native Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine that CAN be made even in Berlin. It represents an endless transformation power of food from it we can learn a lot! There is no their food and my food. There is only food. And there is only we.
I served this moqueca to my family and friends. We were nourished and satisfied. And I was filled with gratefulness.
Brazilian moqueca Nikolina’s style
Ingredients (serves 4):
1/2 Hokaido pumpkin, chopped into 2 sm wide cubes
3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 2 cm wide cubes
6 carrots (I found carrots with different colors, but use anything you have), chopped into 1,5 cm wide coins
3 onions, chopped into quarters
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small can of coconut milk (250 ml)
3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3 Tsp sunflower seeds
3 Tsp dried cranberries
a knob of coconut fat/ oil
salt and pepper to your taste
2 Tsp hemp seeds
handful of coriander leaves
handful of fresh sprouts (I used radish sprouts)
400 g cooked whole grain brown rice
and drizzle with lime juice
1. Prepare the vegetables. Wash and chop them like described above. Don’t chop the vegetables into too small pieces. In a large and deep skillet heat the knob of ghee or coconut fat/oil. Add garlic and turmeric, cumin and coriander powder. Starr to fry for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables into the skillet and stir to combine with spices. Add 100 ml water,cover the skillet with a lid and cook on the medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Add some more water, if necessary.
2. Remove the lid from the skillet and pour vegetables with coconut milk. Gently stir, add some salt, cranberries and sunflower seeds. Reduce the temperature and cook on the low heat until the vegetables are tender, but still firm when bitten (5 min.).
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover everything with some fresh sprouts, hemp seeds and bunch of coriander leaves. Serve with cooked whole grain brown rice, wheat brans, avocado slices and some lime juice drops.