1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
Brazil is the largest country in South America, and the fourth-largest country in the world. It lies on the East Coast of South America. Because Brazil lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed from those in North America: the winter months are May through August, and the warmest summer month is January. The mighty Amazon River, the world’s second-longest river after the Nile in Egypt, flows across northern Brazil. The area around the Amazon River is known as one of the world’s largest rainforests. About one-fourth of all the world’s known plants are found in Brazil. In the latter part of the 1900s, logging and other commercial industries were damaging the rainforest of Brazil. Dozens of animal and plant species became extinct in Brazil during the 1900s. The destruction of the rainforest environment has slowed a little, however. Brazil’s soil is not fertile enough for agriculture in most areas, but it does produce large quantities of cocoa (it ranks third in cocoa production after Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, both in Africa). River water that flows near cities is polluted by industrial waste.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
Brazil is a large country that is made up of many different cultures. Each region has a different food specialty. The Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500 and brought their tastes and styles of cooking with them. They brought sugar, citrus fruits, and many sweets that are still used for desserts and holidays. The Brazilian “sweet tooth” was developed through the influence of the Europeans. Brazilians use many eggs, fruits, spices (such as cinnamon and cloves), and sugar to make sweet treats, such as ambrosia. They also use savory (not sweet) seasonings such as parsley and garlic. Other nationalities that settled in Brazil were Japanese, Arabs, and Germans. More than one million Italians had migrated to Brazil by 1880. Each immigrant group brought along its own style of cooking.
Long before the Europeans arrived, however, the Tupí-Guaraní and other Indian groups lived in Brazil. They planted manioc (a root vegetable like a potato) from which Brazilians learned to make tapioca and farofa , ground manioc, which is similar to fine breadcrumbs. It is toasted in oil and butter and sprinkled over rice, beans, meat, and fish. As of 2001, farofa was still used as the Brazilians’ basic “flour” to make cookies, biscuits, and bread.