In Brazil, the sandwich called Bauru hold the place of honor that is saved for the BLT in North American cuisine. It's almost universally available in cafes, roadhouses, and lunchspots. It has numerous variations, and has been reinvented numerous times. And it has a similarly long history to the BLT.
Last week the prominent São Paulo newspaper Folha de S.Paulo featured the Bauru in an article celebrating the sandwich's 87th anniversary. It is an interesting bit of Brazilian gastronomic history, and it reveals that today's Bauru is far removed from its progenitor, created in 1922 in São Paulo.
The original Bauru was created by a radio host named Casemiro Pinto Neto who was a frequent customer at a simple restaurant called O Ponto Chic (The Chic Spot) on São Paulo's Largo do Paissandu. The restaurant was a hangout for journalists and politicos, and Casemiro created a sandwich from ingredients already available at the lunch counter. The original recipe called for a crusty french bun, cut open and hollowed out, thin slices of cold roast beef, slices of cucumber pickles and tomatoes, and a combination of three cheeses melted in a double boiler.
Casemiro was born and raised in the small city of Bauru, in the interior of São Paulo State, and his nickname was "Bauru". His sandwich quicly became a favorite with other patrons of O Ponto Chic, who would order one by asking for "Bauru's sandwich." Eventually, it became simply a Bauru.
Over the years, the ingredients of a Bauru changed and simplified, and today's typical Bauru is basically a grilled cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato. Some Baurus are excellent, but most display the lack of care of most fast food kitchens. But it's still one of the most popular and commonly ordered sandwiches in Brazil.
If one is in São Paulo, it is possible to sample the original Bauru - in the place of its invention O Ponto Chic. Nothing about the Bauru has changed in the 87 years this restaurant has been making the sandwich, since the days of Casemiro Pinto Neto. There is enough demand for a true Bauru (even at the relatively expensive price of R$14.40 - about USD $8.50) that the restaurant serves approximately twenty-four thousand per month in its three locations. With almost a quarter-pound of cheese, plus the other ingredients, the Bauru packs a caloric punch, weighing in at 870 calories. Considering the twenty-four thousand sold per month, that means that O Ponto Chic sells just under 21 million calories of Bauru each month.
The iconic status of this sandwich is so high that Brazil's national Institute of Historical Patrimony and National Artistry has received a bid to recognize the Bauru as an integral part of Brazil's cultural patrimony. The millions of Brazilians who eat a Bauru every day don't need a stamp of approval from the Institute to consider the Bauru part of Brazil's unique gastronomic heritage.
(adapted and translated from an article by Ana Paula Boni in the Folha de S.Paulo, 10 November 2009)