By Ernest Barteldes
Though we are not essentially religious, Renata and I do like to follow a few traditions when festive times come around, and that is especially true during Easter, when we bring together several practices that come from Brazil and Poland, the countries where we were raised and spent our formative years –and even though both nations are both heavily Roman Catholic, the way each country celebrates the holiday differs widely – especially when it comes to food.
In Brazil – at least when I lived there – you get four days off starting from Thursday before Good Friday, so it’s basically a long weekend. The less pious who live in large cities head to the countryside or the beach (summer is over by then unless you live in the northeast but it’s still warm enough). In Brazil, the Catholic church advises the faithful to abstain from red meat and to most that means having seafood-based dishes – which means codfish to those who can afford it.
Though Good Friday is a time of prayer and fasting, many Brazilians take that with a twist – many families come together to have a seafood feast – the codfish is served fried, boiled, in a Bahia-style stew (moqueca) or even grilled, and that goes with plenty of wine – I have been present in a few of those and it was one of these rare moments when I almost never heard anyone ask for a beer.
Easter Sunday it’s all about food, especially meat and and chocolate. A few weeks after Carnaval, supermarkets are flooded with chocolate eggs – they are hollow and filled with candy inside – a treat that many children look forward to every year. They come in various sizes – some weigh as much as two pounds and come at a hefty price, but affordable versions can be found pretty much everywhere. The food folks serve depend on the region of the country, but most are pork, beef or lamb-based.
One of the most interesting Polish traditions is the blessing of the food during the Saturday vigil, when an ornate basket called Święconka is prepared, bringing bring a sample of each of the foods served on Easter Sunday morning to church. Over the years we have observed this ritual and marveled at the variety of foods that are taken for the blessing – in addition to bread, sausage (kielbasa), salt, ham and eggs, I have even seen hotel-style bottles of vodka as part of the ritual since many Polish folk abstain from alcohol for the entire weekend leading to Easter.
It is fun to follow these traditions even if we are as pious as a lot other folk are, since it preserves a connection to the cultures that we are still – even if a bit removed – part of.
Arroz de Bacalhau (Codfish rice) is a Portuguese dish that many Brazilians have inherited and often use on Good Friday – it is quick, easy and delicious.
Arroz de Bacalhau
source Tia Maria’s kitchen
½ lb of Salt Cod (boneless & hydrated)
4 cups of cooked long grain rice
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 small onion diced
1/2 cup red & green pepper diced
2 small crushed ripe tomatoes (about 1 cup)
2 cloves of chopped garlic
2 tsp of chopped parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
Black Olives for garnish
Cook the cod fish in boiling water for 10 minutes. Pat dry, shred into chunks and set aside. In a medium heavy skillet on medium heat, saute the onions, garlic and peppers in the olive oil for about 2 minutes until translucent.
Add the tomatoes and cod fish, and cook for 5 minutes until the tomatoes have concentrated. Add the cooked rice and stir to incorporate. Cook on low heat for a few minutes until the rice is hot. Add salt & pepper to taste.Add the parsley and olives as garnish when ready to serve.