Monday, November 19, 2007

How do they do Brazil?
Article below about Brazil which features my friend Patsy - who is a great music PR in London and has a great Brazilian personality - she also has about 10 names, as you do when you are Latin American. I wish I had a few more maiden and surnames after my already lengthy surname - will have to make some up.

The article, published a few years ago (2004), focuses on Brazilian food habits (they eat a lot of meat!) and it reminds me of the Brazilian restaurant Ms. Norris (PIC) and I went to called Rodizio Rico on Westbourne Grove -where we were bombarded with meat skewers for hours!

Every time we looked up another sword of meat was hovering over our shoulders - we also drank v.strong and sweet caipirinhas that night. A good place to bring a very hungry man as you can feed for hours.

from The Observer (shortened version)


As appealing, sexy, sun-drenched and decadent as the Brazilian lifestyle might seem from a distance, embracing the eating and drinking habits of the average Brazilian is a complicated business. Brazilians suffer from what you might call lifestyle dissonance. They are a nation of supremely beautiful, beach-dwelling, body fascists, who are madly in love with high-fat food and booze-laden drinks. They wear skimpy bikinis, while snacking on deep-fried cheese balls and enormous pork scratchings. Their day is structured round multiple visits to the gym, and the ritual downing of cachaça-based caipirinhas. Brazilians like their bodies lithe and pert, and their meat sun-dried and plentiful; their hair glossy and their skin clear, and their cassava (the root vegetable which Brazilians deep fry and eat like chips) doused in melted butter. It's not an easy combination of cultural obligations to fulfil. But they do it.

Patsy Lima is 26 years old, and daughter of the Brazilian ambassador for Tel Aviv. She's unremittingly fabulous, a London-based PR and part-time DJ, who leads a double life as one of Rio de Janeiro's It girls. Patsy Lima knows her stuff. She knows the best restaurants and hippest bars. She knows which beaches to visit, at what time, for maximum social impact, and she knows what to wear while she's there. Most significantly, she knows how to eat and drink like a Brazilian, while maintaining a perpetually bikini-ready body.

'The basic principle is like Atkins,' she says. We are sitting in Porcao Rios, the Rio outpost of a traditional Brazilian churrascaria. It's a kind of very upscale carvery in which you seat yourself, and then watch in awe as a vast selection of meats on a variety of different shaped skewers is paraded in front of you. Waiters carve, you eat, meat flies in all directions, vegetarians cower, and diners eventually exhibit giggly symptoms of a meat-induced high. Patsy Lima is attacking what is probably her seventh cut of fantastically tender Brazilian beef. 'Yeah,' she says, in between mouthfuls. 'Yeah, Atkins. High protein, very nutritious, very low carb.'

Apart from the cheese bread and the rice and the fried cassava, oh, and the profiteroles that are being served for pudding? 'Oh. Well, apart from them. OK, I'm not really sure how we do it. Maybe because we all take artificial sweetener in our coffee? And we love sushi! That's low fat!


In this, and just about every other respect, Patsy Lima explains, Rio de Janeiro is a town of muted excess. Everyone parties a lot, but no one smokes. No one even really gets violently drunk. The Cariocas (the inhabitants of Rio) have an iron constitution, incredible levels of alcohol tolerance, and an entrenched snack culture, which means they never booze on an empty stomach. They hit the bars late, and pace themselves through to the early hours. No one but tourists are ever sick in a gutter. 'Hell, no!' says Patsy, horrified. 'Why would we get drunk?'


'Daytime in Rio is all about juice, and the beach, ' Patsy Lima explains, as she lures me out of my hotel suite at 9am the following day, with promises of miracle hangover cures. The morning starts, apparently, at Polios Suco in Ipanema, the city's oldest juice bar. It's the prototype of the juice-peddling joints that line the streets of the city - an open-fronted, walk-in, stand-up affair, with a counter, and shelves lined with obscure fruit varieties. Polios Suco's juices are ranged on a menu alphabetically, but Patsy Lima, along with the rest of Rio, categorises them in terms of how fat, or gorgeous, they'll make you.

'Açaí is wonderful. Straight from the Amazon. Anti-cancer, stabilises blood sugar levels in diabetics, good for sex, everything. When the boats bring the frozen pulp of the berries in, there's a biiiiiiiiig party. But it's very, very calorific. I was a really skinny kid so my mum gave it to me every day and bouf! I turned into a woman. If you work it off, you'll get the most beautiful muscles. But if you don't...' she shakes her head in contemplation of the catastrophic consequences.

'Acerola, that's good,' she continues. 'Not calorific at all, though it's very sour, so you should sweeten it. One acerola berry has, like, 10 times the vitamin C of an orange. And Fruta de Conde, which means Fruit of the Count, that's so calorific that no one drinks it. Well, maybe old people, if they're very frail...'

After the juice, we take to the sand. ...Once you have chosen your spot, you hire a chair, and you lounge. You wear a minuscule (though, contrary to popular belief, not noticeably thong-ish) bikini if you're a girl; and very short, very tight Speedo-style trunks if you're a boy. You drink the juice of an unripened coconut, direct from the fruit through a hole bored in the husk. Alternatively, you drink caipirinhas. 'Barmen' stalk the beaches with a mobile cocktail bar dangling from their shoulders, and he'll mix one for you as you sunbathe, for about £1.50.

Then it's time for more deep-fried snacks and caipirinhas at a ramshackle and fabulously authentic café of the Bar do Arnaudo variety. And so it goes on. After five days and nights touring Rio de Janeiro, I am no clearer on how, exactly, you get a Brazilian body while enjoying a Brazilian diet. If anything, I'm more confused.

(I want to go to Brazil now for some sun!) x

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