It Didn’t Happen in Rio
But it did in Paris.
The exact location was the Discophage, a Brazilian hole-in-the-wall restaurant/caberet in the Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne. The wife was in back (cooking), with the husband, Carlos, in the front (hitting on customers), and musicians playing sambas (when they weren’t also hitting on customers). Some young French and American women fell in love with the guitarists; I fell for the feijoada.
At its simplest, it’s a black bean stew with chunks of porky things and tongue, served with manioc flour (a tuber also known variously as cassava, tapioca, or yucca), orange slices, kale and a vinegar sauce, accompanied by rice. Normally, a pot of beans and meats arrives at the table with the bowl of rice, surrounded by a bevy of other small dishes containing the various garnishes.
Pronounced “Fey-ZWAH-dah”, its name derives from the Portuguese for “black bean”, and originated in that European nation, although now is more associated with their former colony, Brazil.
I’ve sought it out in New York, and, over the years, have found very credible versions at Brazilian restaurants that come and go, although you won’t find it at the otherwise wonderful churrascarias (Brazilian barbecues) popping up all over.
Business meals in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janiero never afforded the opportunity to try feijoada at the source. Just like in the United States, the locals take visiting firemen to “the local Chamber of Commerce restaurant,” as Calvin Trillin would say, instead of where the locals eat the really good food.
But I hit the mother lode during a side trip to Iguazu Falls, where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet.
This occurred many years ago, so the hotel, not yet trained to focus on burgers, spaghetti and sushi for tourists, instead served a feijoada buffet for lunch.
At least ten pots bubbled with assorted sausages, pork chunks (including belly, another day’s blog), and odd parts, including perfectly braised tongue, all cooked with black beans. Mounds of manioc and rice and orange stood by, with a few different vinegar sauces and freshly cooked kale.
It is a rich, peasanty food, and carries a high risk of overindulgence, particularly as the plate gets loaded with all the components. So, have plenty of kale and oranges, skip the dessert, and Bom Apetite!