Feijoada is one of the most well-known and popular typical dishes of Brazilian cuisine. Composed basically of black beans, various portions of pork, sausage, flour, and the accompaniment of vegetables, it is commonly referred to as a culinary creation of enslaved Africans who came to Brazil. But is that really the story of feijoada?
Historians and culinary experts indicate that this type of dish - which mixes various types of meats, vegetables - is ancient. It possibly dates back from the Mediterranean area to the time of the Roman Empire, according to Câmara Cascudo. Similar dishes in Latin cuisine would be cooked in Portugal; the cassoulet, in France; paella, based on rice, in Spain; and casual and mixed bollito, in Italy.
But feijoada has the specifics of Brazilian cuisine. Black beans are originally from South America and were called by the Guaranis as commands, comaná, or cumaná. Cassava flour is also of American origin, being adopted as a basic component of food by Africans and Europeans who came to Brazil. Bean and cassava plantations were planted in several places, including domestic spaces, around homes, mainly from the lower classes.
According to Carlos Alberto Dória, the origin of the feijoada would be in the “fat beans”, the stew of the legume plus bacon and dried meat. The feijoada would be that “fat bean” enriched to the extreme, with sausages, legumes, and pork.
The inclusion of the last ingredient mentioned above led Câmara Cascudo to question whether feijoada was the invention of enslaved Africans: since most Africans are followers of Islam, how could they have included pork in their dishes since religion prohibits its consumption?
The famous Brazilian folklorist indicates that feijoada as we know it, composed of beans, meats, vegetables, and legumes, would be a combination created only in the 19th century in restaurants frequented by the Brazilian slave elite. Its diffusion would have occurred in hotels and pensions, mainly from Rio de Janeiro.
However, the spread of the idea of feijoada as a national dish would be a consequence of the modernists' actions to build a Brazilian national identity, according to Carlos Alberto Dória. Feijoada would be one of the signs of Brazilianness, characterized by the theme of anthropophagy, of cultural swallowing that permeated the formation of the Brazilian nation.
Mário de Andrade presented this perspective in his well-known book "Macunaíma", from 1924, during a feast at the home of the farmer Venceslau Pietro Pietra, in which the anti-hero participated. According to Dória, the scene would be an allegory of national cuisine and the different ethnic groups that came into contact in Brazil.
Vinicius de Moraes also talked about feijoada, in his poem “Feijoada à Minha Moda”, portraying at the end the scene of difficult digestion of the dish: What more pleasure does a body ask for / After eating such a bean? / - Evidently a hammock / E a cat to pass the hand ...
By Tales Pinto Master in History