My Country, My Culture: Brazil

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By Matthew Brennan

I learned how food, music, dance and tradition are important to Brazilian culture.

I married a Brazilian and married into Brazilian culture.  My children are American and Brazilian, so, I knew that I would have to get used to a different culture.  It starts with the food.  We eat a lot of fresh rice and beans with salad.  Beef, chicken or pork on the barbecue is traditional or cooking it in a pressure cooker.  I don’t think I knew what a pressure cooker was before I married my wife.  Growing up I ate hot dogs and baked beans for supper on Saturday night but beans weren’t commonly found on our plate.  My mother used to prepare mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad and beef or pork.  That’s a typical Irish meal.  That may be a typical American meal.  So, I’ve gotten used to rice and a ‘feijoada’ which is a stew of beans with beef or pork.  Of course potato salad or ‘maionaise,’ as the Brazilians call it, is a common side dish.  The meat or chicken is cooked in a ‘churrasco’ style which means barbecue to Americans. Coconut milk is a healthy drink.  Passion fruit is another juice I’ve learned to appreciate. The guarana berry is made into a soda called ‘Guarana.’   Just like afternoon tea is a tradition in British and Irish homes, the Brazilians look forward to their afternoon coffee and cake.  A little coffee or ‘cafezinho’ with corn cake in the afternoon is important traditionally and socially to the culture.

There’s no better way to relax and chat.  The tongue is not only for tasting but speaking.  The ‘lingua’ is important to speak Portuguese at our house.  It’s a beautiful language that reminds me of the ups and downs of Italian.  And as with all languages one must be cognizant of the thinking behind the language. Recently, my son discovered some new teeth.  My wife told me his teeth in back were coming ‘out’ and I panicked to see which molars were falling out.  What she meant was that the teeth were coming ‘in’.  That’s one example of how languages think differently.

Communicating is also important when you dance.  My wife and I rarely speak when we dance but we have learned to communicate through the music. We dance Forro and Samba regularly.  The music of Brazil includes a lot of percussion instruments including the bongo drums.  However, the most important instrument to Brazilian music is the accordion.  It’s rhythm is so important to the Forro dancing style which is a combination of the 1-2 step and the 2 step dances similar to country dances.  These dances have 3 beats with music blending African rhythms and European melodies.  It’s a joyful and an amazing experience to dance Forro to the music from a Brazilian band of accordions  and percussion with a dance floor of Brazilians.

That’s my cultural experience.  That’s my new country and my new culture.