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Brazil's culinary influences include not only Amerindian and Portuguese foods, but the cooking styles of immigrants from many other parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Each of the country's five geographic regions offer cuisines that are distinctly different yet recognizably Brazilian.

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Guarana is one of the best-loved fruits in Brazil and much folklore is based around it. The edible part is the black seed within some white, fleshy material. When ripe, the fruit has an uncanny resemblance to the human eye as it "peers" out of its opened, bright orange-red capsule. Ingesting the seeds produces high energy levels, which the Indians attributed to supernatural powers, but which we now know is the effect of caffeine.

A legend of the Satare-Maue Indians explains why the seeds resemble eyes. A beautiful Indian woman named Onhiamuacabe gave birth to a child sired by a mysterious being. This child was killed for eating some forbidden nuts, and at his burial site, a guarana bush grew from his eye. According to the legend, the bush also brought forth a child from whom the Maue tribe descended.

To the Indians, the seeds not only were a stimulant, they were an aphrodisiac and a means of prolonging life. They roasted and ground the seeds, mixed them with manioc (cassava) meal, and rolled the resulting paste into sticks, which were allowed to harden. Using the rough-surfaced tongue of the piraruc fish as a grater, they broke off small pieces of the dried guarana paste and rehydrated them in water to make a drink. Guarana is available today in a variety of forms, including a very popular carbonated soft drink of the same name, a syrup, a powder, in capsules and in sticks.


From Eat Smart In Brazil. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Ginkgo Press.


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This page modified January 2007