Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot Soup on a Hot Beach


If there ever was an example of unfettered capitalism in operation, a typical beach in Brazil might be it. On any beach along the 4654 miles (7491 kms.) of Brazil's coastline those enjoying the sun and surf will be offered the opportunity to purchase an extraordinary variety of goods - foods, drinks (alcoholic and non-), sunglasses, swimsuits, beach towels, folk art, tattoos, kites and balloons, lottery tickets, and jewellry, among others. Fortunately, Brazilian beach vendors are seldom agressive in their sales pitches, and a simple "no, thanks" (não, obrigado in Portuguese) is enough to convince a vendor to move on. However, sometimes they do offer tremendous bargains in clothes and art, and often the food and drink is excellent. When purchasing food at the beach, a bit of common sense in necessary when considering hygiene and food safety - for example, I don't recommend purchasing cooked shrimp or crab which might have been in the hot sun, unrefrigerated, for a long time. However, other foods are perfectly safe to order and eat.

One of the most typical offerings of beach vendors in Brazil is something that would seem not to be appropriate for a hot day in the sun on the beach - soup (caldo or caldinho in Portuguese). Surprisingly though, it is often exactly what is needed. It's not heavy, not too much, yet it sustains and reduces those stomach growls which indicate hunger. Vendors usually bring the soup in the thermos jar, so it's very hot. They serve it in a plastic cup, and garnish each serving individually. It's satisfying, and very cheap - prices range from one to three reais, which is approximately $0.50 to $1.50 per serving.

The most commonly sold soups at the beach are fish, seafood or bean. The seafood is a natural companion to beach life, and bean soup is Brazilian comfort food at its most basic. The vast majority of Brazilians of all economic levels eat some form of dried beans every day (as they do rice). So a nice cup of bean soup at the beach makes gastronomic sense to Brazilians, and should you try it, will do the same for you.

Recipes for some of the typical caldos will follow in future posts.

2 comments:

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