Author Archives: senorokra

& after the Obrigação has been made…

Brazil - Barton - Work

a day or two after the 'work' had been done

It appears that someone had to make an obrigação to Exú either the night before I first saw this detritus, Saturday or on Friday. The alcohol, the adiga formerly filled with farofa de dendê and the fact that it has been placed at a crossroads are the overt clues. Obviously, this particular ‘work’ that had been done didn’t come at great cost. Hopefully, it did it what is was supposed to have done…

Posted by Scott Alves Barton — PhD Candidate in Food Studies at NYU

Riffing on Bean Fritters: Acarajé Stories

Barton - Brazil - Bean 1[“When did you begin? Who taught you? How long have you been working as an acarajé vendor? Do you also make Comida de Santo? Do you think your customers buy your acarajé because of quality? Or as reference to their heritage-memory-culture? Do they acknowledge belief in African religions such as Candomble? Is that their rationale for buying your acarajé? Or is it just, that it tastes good? What if anything is your relationship to the Comida de Santo?”]

Vivaldo Costa Lima, a former mentor, culinary anthropologist, ogan, and cultural leader of Bahia clearly identified acarajé as being a trope of Salvador and Bahian cuisine. Without acarajé and the women who sell them, Salvador would not be Salvador. Traditionally, these women were novitiates in various Candomblé terreiros. Some portion of their earnings went back into the terreiros to maintain the temples upkeep and overhead.

Barton - Brazil - Bean FritterThese black-eyed pea fritters cooked in smoky dendé oil are archetypical foods of Bahia and reflections of the African diaspora presence here.Cousin to a falafel they begin in similar fashion, as raw soaked beans, slaked of their skin or ‘black eye’, ground to a paste with a mortar and pestle, enhanced with grated onion and salt and then formed into an orb as large as a goose egg. Originally, once cooked they were split and spread with pimenta, a chili paste made from malagueta peppers, smoked dried shrimp and dendé oil . Continue reading

Tira Gostos: to take or savour pleasure, salty tidbits or appetizers

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Baianese: “Ele sempre fica um olho em acarajé”—‘He always has an eye out for acarajé’, overheard from a passing conversation as I walked to the bus stop.

Entering the heart of Reconcavo cane fields and street vendors selling bananas, farinha, artisanal crafts and snacks appear in vast quantities. Fecundity abounds. Much as I never see castrated dogs anywhere, the suppression of reproductive potential seems to be an anathema to this land. I see diaphanous pale violet flowers peep up through the vast rows of cane. A first harvest of cacao has been husked and set to roast over wood fires in Ilheus, Costa de Cacau despite the ever-present fungus that has seriously affected the national crop. Açai from São Luis do Maranhão has already begun to enter the markets, beginning in late March. Coconut and dendé, palm fruits for oil are ripe for picking. Mandioca is harvested as needed, since it keeps perfectly well below ground for years. There is a surfeit of papaya, growing weed-like everywhere and also various types of banana, some grown to shade other crops like cacau and café. Additionally the street carts and market shelves are filled with goiaba, acerola cherries, maracúja, mango, manga, graviola, cajá and caju . I had yet to see pitanga or cupuaçu, two of my favorites. Continue reading

Added Value, Contextualizing the ‘Bumba’

Barton - Brazil - Bumba-Meu-Boi sculptural mobile

Bumba-Meu-Boi sculptural mobile by Sr. Nhozinho, early 20th c Maranhense crippled folkloric artist

The addendum to the Bumba fest images from the last post is that in reality the discourse of race-class-ethnicity & miscegenation via the portal of colonialism presented as popular theatre offers many inroads for analysis. One key factor to consider is that this month long event, now stretched to nearly two months falls under the Juninha holiday cycle, June festivals for São João or St. John the Baptist, and in reality São João is a subtext or trope for Xango. Thus, hidden in plain view is a multiple conversation of church-society-power-African and Indigenous traditions and contentious subtle debate against the previously dominant paradigm, the Portuguese, with a fundamental raison d’être of Orixa worship and power illustrated via the double consciousness/double speak of syncretic appropriation of African cosmology deftly concealed in several layers of guises. Xango has been said to have been one of the Orixá who was a real person and not simply a mythic being. The third king of the Oyo kingdom, he was deified posthumously. He is identified as the god of fire, thunder, lightning and a father of the sky. He is a consummate warrior, identified with maleness and sexuality, he is alleged to have had three wives, the Orixás: Oxum, Oya and Oba. All of whom figure deeply into the mythic pantheon of stories and legends in the ontology of Candomblé, Santeria and Lucumi. Xango cults pervade northeastern Brazil. I often look at him since one of his favorite foods is okra, turned into Caruru or Brazilian form of Gumbo, which is a major component in the meals associated with my primary research, A Festa da Boa Morte in Cachoeira.

Posted by Scott Alves Barton — PhD Candidate in Food Studies at NYU

Lembrancas de Bumba-Meu-Boi

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My first few hours in São Luis were spent here at the Bumba-Meu-Boi competition. Intially, I took it as pure camp and regional diversion until I realized the depth of this particular farcical melodramatic dance and music competition. The essential narrative is one of miscegnation, colonialism and power depicting the Indigenous, the colonizing Portuguese rancher, the African in the guise of Mãe Catarina, the buffon and all knowing slave portrayed as by a man in drag. Both Catarina and the wife of the rancher are pregnant. At issue is the magical properties that cause what you adore to be reflected in the actions you make. In this instance the baby appears with a cow’s face. The farce allows an open discussion of the complexity of racial paradigms and historic uses of power in an arena of family entertainment with regional dishes and Brazilian carny-style snack foods. The competitions involve 6-10 troupes per night. Traditionally this festa was part of Juninha and the festivities for São João (St. John) in June. Financially, it became apparent that extending the competitions into July provided an outlet for locals on ‘winter break’ to have an escape concurrent to the beginning of the international tourist season…

Posted by Scott Alves Barton — PhD Candidate in Food Studies at NYU

NY > Salvador….and now São Luis do Maranhão

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I arrived in Salvador five days ago. After finding a room for a the first days, I began my round of meetings with university professors at UFBa (Federal University of Brazil, Bahia campus) local contacts, mentors and friends to get a sense of how things in city and in my area were doing or had changed. The first image is indicative of both a corrupt local government trying to show modernist improvements before the election season and the unrelenting desire to address the ‘racial democracy’ via their tanning habits. That coupled with continued local in fighting over mass transit and public health seem to indicate that some of the public works projects positioned as markers reflective of a 21st century Bahia/Brazil for the upcoming international sports games might backfire. Most of my contacts are complaining about the lack of essential services and an obsession with these unnecessary plans. Local working class people in both Salvador and Maranhão have also mentioned that the use of Crack is growing as a drug problem.

The street shots typify how popular some of the regional dishes, acarajé, abarra, and vatapa are with young people. These dishes and other foods that have a sacred root in Yoruba cultural traditions and directly address my research are often presented for consumption in public arenas. As indicated in the photos the women producing the food wear the classic Bahiana colonial dress. Traditionally these women were all noviates (novices) in Candomblé temples and this work helped fund the temples. I have been told that other individuals outside of the religious community are also producing these goods, including entrepreneurial men. Interviewing some of these vendors will be part of my task once I return to town. Continue reading

Putting my Ducks in Line

Comida de Santo, Itaparica

Comida de Santo, Itaparica - Late Summer 2008

I pulled up this photo along with other work shot during my first excursion to Brazil (July-November 2008), as an aid in remembering where I have been-to prepare me for my return, and the next steps I need to take with my research. Officially, my trip begins three weeks from today.

I will cover new geographic turf traveling close to the equator and the mouth of the Amazon in Maranhão state, south to Pernambuco, Bahia, (site of past field work) and the Mercado Madrueira in the Rio suburbs to observe one of largest sacred wholesale markets for foodstuffs, ephemera and religious objects. While in Bahia I will speak to and work with new and old colleagues as well as head inland to continue my observation of ‘A Festa da Boa Morte,’ The Festival of the Good Death in Cachoeira. I am anxious to engage with new populations and regions unfamiliar to me. Last week I received a warm welcome via email from my four mentors in Bahia; all professors at UFBa and/or CEAO in Anthro and History. Those former contacts have been quite helpful in the past and collectively they will all be invaluable to open the doorways, (giving Ogum his due) in these new locales. This is my first, ‘semi-official’ post since it has be generated in country, US of A and not in Brazil. Hello to all of my fellow Tinker travelers. What I have read so far makes it sound as though we are all in for fruitful and stimulating periods in our respective areas. Vai bem, walk softly and listen fully. Olé, Scott

Posted by Scott Barton – PhD in Food Studies at NYU