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Cuisine - Food For The Body And For The Spirit
Hardly, if ever, you can find a kind of people who enjoys cooking and eating as much as people from Bahia. Eating, in Bahia, is not merely a matter of physiologic needs, but it also involves a whole complex rituals and beliefs. The food in Bahia is mostly influenced by African traditions from slavery times; since the 1500's. The Africans brought with them the candomble', a religion which still exists in Bahia, and most parts of Brazil; practising candomble' involves praising gods of thunder, lightning, hunt, etc., and giving gifts to them, especially gifts of food which are placed on a special kind of alter to the specific god you want to praise. These foods are later on shared with friends who come to participate of the ceremonies or members of the family. Of course, this is only the religious aspect of Bahian gastronomy, and it functions almost as an excuse for partying and having friends over to eat and enjoy the good food. There is also the business side the whole thing, run by the 'baianas', women dressed in very colorful skirts and blouses, bringing with them their trays full of small appetizers and sweets that are consumed by the native population and tourists. They are everywhere on the streets of Bahia and at lunch time the 'baianas' beat by far the competition of fast-food houses.

Palm oil and pepper are the main ingredients in any bahian food. The palm oil, extracted from the palm tree (Elaeis Guinneasis), originally from the African coast, gives the typical dishes an attractive reddish yellow color and a delicious smell that is supposed to 'open your appetite', as we say over here. The pepper gives a hot taste, so strong that leads the one who is eating to indecision: to stop eating because it's too hot, or not to stop eating because it's extremely delicious. This pepper (Granum Paradisi) comes from India and it's supposed to motivate the stomach, liver and intestines to work better, digesting well all the food. These two main ingredients are very healthy and make digestion of the typical dishes very easy to the whole body.
With no doubt, the major influence on Bahian cuisine comes from Africa, but we also have a strong influence from the native Indians and the Portuguese who colonized Brazil. The Indians contributed mainly with cassava flour, or 'gari', which works mostly as a topper to juicy foods and also gives a nice smell and taste to the foods. From this kind of flour many other side-dishes are made and they generally accompany stews and soups. The Portuguese contribution is mainly on desserts, fish dishes and olive oil-based dishes. All those influences ended up being mixed up by the Bahian cuisine experts and that's gives our cuisine a whole new taste.

So, if suddenly you find someone telling you he is feeding his spirit and has in front of him a delicious and juicy dish, don't be amazed: you are in Bahia.


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