Are you hungry for travel? Do you miss trying authentic local food around the world? Meet Polyana de Oliveira (Poly), the author of "Travel to Brazil: The Cookbook" and take a journey to Brazil through her book!
About Poly: Brazilian food was front and center of our family
I was born in Brazil, but raised in the United States. I moved back to Brazil after college. I’ve always loved food. I come from a family where food was always really important to us, and especially, being outside the country, Brazilian food was front and center of our family gatherings. I didn’t develop a curiosity for cooking much until I moved to Brazil though, and didn’t have my parents around to bring me prepped foods, so I’d try to recreate some of my mother’s dishes. I ended up falling in love with cooking, and it’s become almost therapeutic and less of a daily task. In college, I studied Global Studies too, so I have always been curious about different cultures, and different peoples’ foods, and why they eat what they eat.
My mission is to introduce local traditions in Brazil and more
I now own a travel agency that works with incoming travel to Brazil, and so part of my work is to showcase the country’s cultures through experiencing the variety of dishes you’ll find, regional food production and locals’ culinary traditions. In the end, I’ve found this is an enjoyable and literally (ful)filling way to immerse ourselves in our travels, and our clients leave with a sense of what makes each Brazilian region so unique, but also what ties the country together. This makes me feel like I’ve fulfilled my mission in introducing travelers to local traditions in Brazil, removing a bit of the stereotypes, and bringing cultural exchanges and gains to local communities as well.
Brazil has its own champions in sustainability and social justice
The book highlights local travel providers around the country. It is a means to get their image and travel products out into the world, whilst also sharing their stories. At my agency, we make it a point to work with providers who are committed to the preservation of their local cultures and environments, and this is a theme found throughout the book, so it’s a message that shows the world Brazil has its own champions in sustainability and social justice, working through travel.
Also, 10% of the profits of the book are going towards community-based tourism projects in Brazil, such as Projeto Bagagem (a national NGO), and local organizations found in the book (Adocci, MMIB, and Instituto Negralinda), in order to support their livelihoods throughout the pandemic, and hopefully beyond.
This cookbook allows everyone to travel to Brazil without leaving home and support local communities
When the pandemic hit, and we saw everyone was looking for ways to “travel” without leaving home, and at-home cooking was soaring, I thought it would be a fun idea to create something to keep our prospective travelers interested in Brazil, but also do so from home.
In the end, I figured it could be more - a way to showcase our local providers and the country’s diversity, a “thank you gift” for clients who would eventually book with us, and a means to support local communities struggling with the lack of travel!
Brazilian food is a mix of indigenous, African, and European cuisines
I learned so much about regional Brazilian ingredients, and how important the history of each region was to shaping their cuisine. I guess this is something we think we already “know,” but I was able to dive a little deeper into this, and it makes me appreciate the food I’m preparing so much more.
It is commonly said, for example, that Brazilian food is a mix of indigenous, African, and European cuisines, but I learned which indigenous communities were behind certain dishes, and which parts of Africa certain ingredients and dishes were inspired by. I learned about different traditions of fishing and agriculture that are very local and so ingrained in certain regions’ cultures. I also learned so much about food in general - I studied many cookbooks and how to write recipes, what the actual chemistry behind cooking is, and how some of our ancestors learned methods simply by testing things out and passing them down by tradition.
Feijão tropeiro: My favorite recipe made by an incredibly strong and inspirational woman
If it had to come down to it, I’d say my favorite recipe in the book is the feijão tropeiro. This is already one of my favorite foods, and the story behind this particular recipe is the story of an incredibly strong and inspirational woman, who grew her business and restaurant selling this particular dish in a local market. The dish is a bean dish made with cassava flour, different cuts of pork, and collard greens. It brings together those elements I talked about with the indigenous (cassava flour), Portuguese (pork), and African (collard greens) inspiration. And beans are a Brazilian staple no matter where you live in the country!
We’re more than just whatever you find in your Brazilian restaurant at home, or the stereotypes people have of Brazil
You’ll see in the book that we’re a country filled with stories of all kinds, and I think that’s the ultimate story. We’re more than just whatever you find in your Brazilian restaurant at home, or the stereotypes people have of Brazil. We’re a huge country filled with diverse stories, experiences, foods, and people. I try to show that to my clients who spend their trips in Brazil crossing the country from north to south, and this is something that’s also very evident in the book.