Thursday, July 7, 2011

Banana anyone?

Fruit was one of my biggest adjustments moving to Rio de Janeiro. Yes, fruit!

You see, I was following the extremely balanced American university diet of microwavable food, alcohol, and water. Even living with a foodie roommate, I was as picky of an eater as an obnoxious toddler. 

Try explaining this to your newly adopted Mother-in-Law when you don't speak the same language and are living in the same house. I was in healthy homemade food hell, that is until I started eating it. Who knew not perfectly shaped tomatoes could taste so good?! And those little weird looking bananas, not nearly as pretty as ours, packed a taste that would put American ones to shame. 

My eyes were opened and they were curious. It amazed me how easily and naturally fruit snuck into the everyday diet of Brazilians. Any given day you'd stop and have one or two fresh fruit juices, pineapple is served as a desert, and you can find fruit easier than a public bathroom. It's everywhere in Rio and it's cheap! 

Now I'm one of those women that takes samples from all the vendors at the farmer's market. A little piece of papaya, a triangle of watermelon, and maybe a square of mango. Why not? 

My diet as a whole has changed, as well as what I consider to be healthy eating. While I'm far from the strict foodie, but I am now more educated on the subject.  Not only that, my tastes have become more open and I find myself craving healthier and more interesting foods. 

And while I seem to have decent genes that literally saved my ass from the whole American obesity issue, there's still general health, heart attacks, and blackheads. It's not wonder some of the most beautiful people in the world are down here. They have the fuel to feed it! 

Has a place ever changed your diet? 


  1. Yes, the countries I lived at in South America greatly affected by diet (Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru, and Brazil, and therefore my weight, too. That one reason why I can't wait to return to Brazil - healthier living, more natural foods, more exercise = weightloss for me.

    I love the fruits in Brazil, especially in the Amazon since that's where I lived. Mmmm to acai (the real stuff, I've had the overly preserved servings in Rio and the US), cupuacu, cacau, mango, acerola, etc....I don't like the small bananas; I prefer those from Costa Rica that you find in the US.

  2. There's a fantastic banana post in The Good Blood blog:
    This video is also great:

  3. Rachel,

    Absolutely, we did the opposite from you.
    We went from being used to cheap and available healthy fruit, to expensive, ethylene injected produce that looked great and had little to no taste.
    The strawberries here are sort of dry and hollow, opposed to juicy and wholesome like the strawberries we were used to in Brazil.
    It is really hard to find good peaches or nectarines for example, they usually look great but are often too dry and not sweet. Brazilian nectarines and peaches are smaller, not as pretty, but are super juicy and sweet.
    I personally love figs in Brazil, they are sweet juicy figs, abundant and available all over the place. Really rare to find figs at all in the US.
    But not all is worse here, American spinach is more delicate and better than the ones we could find in Brazil, perhaps because the land here is more alkaline and the soil in Brazil is more acid.
    The hardest produce for us to adapt was anything citric, oranges here taste like they have gone bad, oranges like these in Brazil are thrown in the garbage, we called "laranja passada", it tastes like "passada", which means, it has passed it's prime. And the worse part is that all industrialized orange juice taste like oranges that have passed it's prime.
    Tangerines are even worse here, people buy expensive "Clementine" tangerines from Spain and South Africa and they taste horrible, they taste like they have gone bad, not fresh at all, and people love it. I think it's because they have never tasted fresh citrus fruit before and they just think this is the way citrus fruit should taste.
    I recently found out that strawberries, oranges and even green peas are artificially colored to improve it's looks, which is a foreign concept to me.
    One thing that scares me too is when I buy pears and they don't go bad, even after a couple of weeks, they still look pretty, which is scary, because real, fresh food should go bad quickly, I have 3 pears in my fruit basket right now that became our little science project, we are just observing to see when these bad boys are gonna go bad, they are hard as they can be and still look great, going on the 3rd week :(

    to be continued...

  4. continued from previous comment:

    I love the abundance of mushrooms in the US, not sure I will be able to find cheap Portabella mushrooms all over the place in Sao Paulo, at least not yet, maybe in the future, hopefully.
    Farmers spray cucumbers and tomatoes with a waxy oily substance to help preserve it longer, we have a hard time to scrub the nasty stuff off of it.
    We like American radishes better because they are mild, Brazilian radishes are kind acid because of the acid soil in Brazil.
    Mangoes suck in the US. I've given up buying them all together. Brazilian mangoes are heavenly and I miss them, juicy and super tasty.
    Pineapples here are the absolute BEST I have ever tasted anywhere in the world. I don't even care if they are artificially colored, they are super yellow and super juicy and sweet. Good luck finding a similar pineapple in Brazil, acid soil equals acid pineapples.
    I miss the abundant, great juicy and tasty Brazilian persimmons "caqui", American persimmons are expensive as hell and super rare to find.
    Green leafs here are really hard, they have tough leaves, perhaps due to the alkaline soil in the US, maybe acid soils are better for green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, collard greens and cabbage.
    I love the great variety of potatoes here in the US, not as great variety of potatoes in Brazil. However I miss "Mandioquinha", sorry, I don't know the translation, but it's like a small yellow potato.
    When first arrived here we had to learn about all the meat cuts, all different from Brazil. Good meat cuts used to be very expensive here in the US. Now with the economic crisis, people are not eating in restaurants as much and supermarkets have been flooded with cheap PRIME cuts of meat. We can now buy "Filet Mignon" for U$5,99 a pound.
    Brazilian beef is really expensive right now, in Sao Paulo you can find Filet mignon for anything between R$20,00 and R$40,00.
    I will say one important thing from all this adaptation process. Your palate changes, and you don't realize it, but it does.
    Things I use to like when I lived in Brazil and think are strange now and things I used to think were strange to my palate here I have adapted to and actually enjoy it now.


  5. Inexpensive fruit, yes! I went to Hortifruti today and bought 10 tangerines and 8 bananas for less than R$3.00! I'm really enjoying tangerine season this year.

  6. It's interesting that the acronym for the Standard American Diet is SAD, isn't it? Industrialized/factory farming just sucks! Produce lose their flavor, nutrional value, it wreaks havoc on the environment... Unfortunately, junk food is less expensive in the US than healthier foods, so socio-economics come into play, too. People with less money are almost railroaded into a junky diet. It's time to democratize healthy food and also support small local farmers, so there's more access all around! There's a movement to change that, but I think other countries are better with produce. One of the joys of travelling is trying local, seasonal food...

  7. I just went to the Feira (farmers market) and for R$50 bought fresh fish, fresh shrimp, and fresh chicken (half kilo of each). Not to mention my spinach, american lettuce, onions, garlic, eggplant, green peppers, carrots, tomatoes, aipim, and some other stuff. It's insane the difference between here and there!

  8. Rachel,

    This sounds great! I miss a good "feira-livre"! :)


  9. I miss the feira, too. Can't wait....