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  • TYPICAL FOOD


    CUISINE, SWEETS AND BEVERAGES ( CULINARIA, DOÇARIA E BEBIDAS )

    The Maranhense cuisine has been given countless and often laudatory references by visitors, chroniclers and historians because of its variety, abundance and seduction. We inherited the Portuguese taste for good food, which was enriched with the meaningful contributions of Africans and native indians.


    CUISINE

    Our art of eating good food has elaborated very particular recipes throughout the centuries. This happened by borrowings of regional ingredients as well as the adaptation of local ways of preparing dishes. The Maranhense cuisine therefore acquired this feature of an autonomous, delicious and persuading entity, responsible for the de-light of great pleasures and a tour of venial sins that may include gluttony, envy, indiscipline or desire for your brother's food.

    Besides all kinds of meat, including wild ones, our cuisine uses fish and other seafood in large quantities. That is to be considered natural, once abundant and varied seafood can still be found in the island - though it is no longer as it used to be in the times of Aluísio Azevedo, when, at Santo Antônio Beach, the whole town heard "a horn announ-cing the fishermen's arrival from the sea and all the fishladies rushed to the beach , most of them black, very fat, holding trays over their heads, waddling their thick haunches and shaking hips and opulent tits."( The Mulatto, 1821)

    A large part of the population of the island has fishing as an important source of income, including places such as São José de Ribamar, Pau Deitado, Raposa and Panaquatira beaches, Tibiri, Anjo da Guarda and even in the city, neighborhoods like São Francisco, Madre Deus and Desterro. It is true that traditional techniques of fishing are no longer commonly found, but it is still possible to see lonely fishermen with their nets or rods in the shallow waters near the beaches, in islands nest to the coast or even over the bridges of the city. There are yet small boats fishing with tapajens, currais and espinhéis.

    The Markets are supplied by open-sea fishing in motorized boats, according to modern and efficient processes which guarantee productivity and quality.

    Our cuisine inherited from the Portuguese the taste for stews and soups, which were given a "Brazilian taste" by native and African ingredients such as okra, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, manioc and local leaves and roots like cará, taioba and inhame. Some regional condiments are dendê-palm oil and babaçu-palm milk. All these, mixed with meat, seafood and even viscera supply our cuisine with a large variety of fried and roasted dished, some variations being the moqueado (fish cooked buried in banana leaves), the escabeche and the moqueca (types of fried fish stew).

    Some kinds of stew, like those made of tail and chest of vacum cattle, are specially appreciated. Dishes such as sarrabulho (liver soup), mocotó (cattle legs stew)and chambari (type of fat meat, called chambaril in formal langua-ge) are prepared with some peculiarities, though they are not typical of Maranhão. The peixada maranhense, a very rich fish stew, and the caldeirada de camarão, a type of shrimp stew, have been enthusiastically praised and made many restaurants famous.

    The very basic features of our cuisine are composed by rice and manioc flour of many kinds. They are regarded as simple garrison, even though they become the principal dish many times. With rice we make arroz-de-touchinho (pig-fat rice), arroz-de-camarão (shrimp rice), arroz-de-jaçanã (dove rice) and maria-isabel (rice mixed with dried meat). Manioc flour provides us with a large range of farofas and paçocas, in which it is mixed with various ingredi-ents, such as meat, chicken, shrimp, eggs and vegetables. It is also responsible for our pirão, (a manioc flour porridge), chibé and tiquara (manioc flour mixed with water - or fish stew - , salt and pepper).

    However, the real taste of Maranhense cuisine lies on our tortas (pies). They are not to be mistaken as simple fried dishes - despite the fact that we also appreciate them very much. The most typical pies are made of shrimp, dried fish, chicken viscera, shellfish and crabs.

    A turtle known as Jurará, which used to be abundant in the flooded areas of the state, is the main ingredient for the casquinho, in which its meat is served in its shell. The same is done with crabs on the coast.

    The Vatapá and the Caruru, which are typical dishes from Bahia, have also been incorporated to our cuisine. Of course, it is not a simple copy: they have received a special treatment that made our versions of these dishes very different from those of Bahia.

    If any dish is to be considered the legitimate representative of the Maranhense cuisine, it is certainly the cuxá, which should be eaten with white rice and fried fish - in fact, a shrimp pie can substitute the fish. Other combinations are not considered adequate to the rite of eating cuxá, which begins with the correct way of preparing it.

    As far as this initial part of the rite is concerned, it is necessary to advise that the use of certain ingredients is consi-dered a serious infraction, though some people prescribe them. Some of these are tomatoes, onions, garlic, okra and olive. Only dried shrimp, manioc flour salt, pepper and vinagreira leaves are supposed to be used.

    Arthur Azevedo - a real Maranhense who was conscious of the reputation of the city where he was born - wrote a letter in verses to Jovino Alves, who was from Bahia, in which he praises the typical food of our land. He says no food compares to cuxá rice. It is almost and exaggerated preference...This text describes extensively the tastes, aromas, recipes and lyrical names of the Maranhense cuisine, whose variety requires a very detailed study to be known.

    Apart from such a 'detailed study', it is doubtlessly worth to check a recipe of cuxá, enough for five or six people:

    05 packs of vinagreira leaves;
    250g gergelim seeds
    500g dried shrimp
    400g fine, white manioc flour

    Boil the vinagreira leaves and wash the shrimp quickly. Toast the gergelim seeds. The flour and the shrimp (and also the pepper, if desired) are to be crushed in a pestle until they are reduces to a homogeneous powder (if there are no pestles available, a mixer or a meat grinder will do). Smash the vinagreira until it becomes a thick paste, then add it to the powder dissolved in water. Take the whole mixture to cook, being careful not to let it thicken too much. Check if there is salt enough. Serve with fried fish or shrimp pie.

    It is curious the fact that the dish is called arroz-de-cuxá. In fact, rice is nothing but a garrison. An long but accurate description of the dish would be "cuxá with rice and fried fish". However, arroz-de-cuxá is valid for its traditional use.



    SWEETS

    Our sweets comprise porridges, beiju (manioc pancake), cuscuz (type of corn or rice cake) and cakes in general. These dishes take manioc paste, macaxeira (a manioc-like root), tapioca (manioc-made grains), corn, sweet pota-toes, wheat flour, rice, eggs, oil, butter, manioc flour, coconut milk, yeast and many others. Spices are many: sugar, salt, clove, cinnamon, herbs, lemon skin etc...

    Fruits and sweets are produced in many ways: they may be crystallized, porridges, or compotes. The most famous and sought-after are those made of bacuri, buriti, banana, orange, abricó, murici, jaca, pineapple, guava and cashew.

    Other sweets with delicious names and taste are the suspiros-de-iaiá, olhos-de-sogra, quindins-de-iaiá, arrufos-de-sinhá, papos-de-anjo, canudos-de-baba-de-moça, bolinhos-de-amor, capelinhas, melindres and so many others which, banned from trays and traditional parties, start sweetening our memories only.

    The group of cakes comprises a long list: bolo-inglês (English cake), bolo podre (rotten cake) or do Maranhão, , bolo de macaxeira, manuê (made of corn and coconut), filhós, bolo de tapioca, corn cakes, rice cakes and so on. Powdered corn and rice are good for making cuscuz, a kind of cake that takes also coconut milk.


    BEVERAGES

    Wines, emultions and macerated juices - which are named cambica or sembereba among us comprise our most typical beverages. The wines of Juçara and Bacaba may be drunk with sugar or have dried shrimp, fried meat or fish as garrisons. With manioc flour they are usually taken as a complete meal. Other juices like those made of murici, cupuaçu, jacama, buriti, tamarindo, cajá, cajazinho and cashew always require sugar, though manioc flour is not considered compulsory. Our typical-fruit liquors also desrve to be mentioned because of their various tastes and aromas.

    Some traditional beverages are no longer easily found. The absence of mocororó, aluá and gengibirra inspire nostalgia of times that used to be remembered as wonderful ones.

    Togehter with the cachaça, already made famous as the most typical Brazilian beverage, we have the tiquira, which the indians taught us how to produce. The tiquira from the Munim region is always blue and very tasteful, however, popular knowledge advises the newcomers: do not bathe after drinking it, for the result will certainly be a long, deep sleep in the kingdom of Baco.
    tables. It is also responsible for our treatment that made our versions of these dishes very different from those of Bahia.

     

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