Carlos Alberto Dória debunks myths about cooking – 03/23/2024 – Food

Carlos Alberto Dória debunks myths about cooking – 03/23/2024 – Food


A certain nationalist common sense insists on understanding the formation of Brazilian cuisine (and identity itself) as a process of acculturation between different historical subjects based on their racial typification. According to this dated interpretation and seen as a myth, the simple mixture of Indians, blacks and whites would have created Brazilians and their eating habits.

It is in order to settle accounts with this “racialist idea” and to fight against this mistaken thinking that sociologist Carlos Alberto Dória, 74, opens the discussion of his new book, “Remates Culinários: Essays marginal to the history of Brazilian cuisine” ( ed. Tapioca).

The work brings together independent academic articles in which the researcher complements a quadrilogy that began with the works “Formação da Culinária Brasileira”, “A Culinária Caipira da Paulistânia” (both published by Fósforo) and the biography “Manuel Querino: Inventor da Cozinha Popular Baiana ” (ed. P55). In all of them, a discussion of historical, political, social and racial issues permeates the analysis of how eating habits were consolidated in the country.

“The racial approach to cooking doesn’t work,” says Dória in an interview with Sheet during lunch at the Lobozó restaurant, of which he is a partner. “Common sense confuses everything, mixes ideas about race and culture. It’s important to question this.”

For him, identity struggles are important in this discussion, as the language that dominates today to deal with miscegenation has problems and comes from the 19th century. The researcher explains that cuisine was used in the past to think about the process of unification of Brazil, offering the example of how miscegenation occurred “in practice”, and that today it is in the process of deconstruction also because of the country’s current cultural environment.

Due to the now outdated approach, he says, it is not clear how multiple African cultures could influence our culinary system, disregarding the complex mixing of various African peoples. It is a process similar to what happens with indigenous people, seen as if they were all the same. “There is no Indian, there are indigenous peoples. Just as there are African peoples”, says Dória.

In relation to indigenous people, Dória says that the idea that they contributed to national cuisine only with ingredients from the land corresponds to “a true cultural massacre”. “There are no indigenous ingredients other than immersed and integral to the cuisines they developed, with their backs turned to the colonialism that appropriated them, reifying them to redefine them on other cultural bases”, she explains.

The sociologist’s fight with common sense myths regarding the history of Brazilian cuisine is old. Ten years ago, Dória was already attacking head on the way in which the idea of ​​miscegenation is used to discuss the formation of national cuisine.

His approach criticized the approach that equalizes the contributions of Indians, blacks and whites in a slave regime in which blacks had no autonomy and indigenous peoples were decimated. “The myth of miscegenation hides the violent process that destroyed the Indians and distorted the characteristics of black people,” he told Folha in 2014, when he was launching the first book in the quadrilogy.

In addition to the discussion on miscegenation, “Remates Culinários” brings together other independent essays on the sociologist’s research in recent years on the country’s culinary history. In general, the text is more dense and theoretically in-depth than other works, as it has a more academic profile, with scientific language.

In the book, he presents a discussion about the so-called “national ingredients”, deals with the consumption of beans in the country and different diasporas that helped to form traditional cuisines in the country. It also deals with how meat was incorporated into the Brazilian diet and outlines a brief history of the “gastronomic project for Brazil” in the 1940s.

In one of the most curious moments, Dória criticizes the approach that considers ingredients to be a natural facet of culinary objects, a bias she calls “ingredientism”. According to him, this view ignores that the ingredients are immersed in a system of transformations in which they play the role of natural raw materials capable of providing various food uses. Furthermore, they do not carry any national and culinary burdens.

Dória also returns to a discussion about the very concept of a Brazilian “national cuisine”, echoing ideas that have become popular and which argue that food traditions preceded the formation of nations.

For him, it is important to understand that Brazilian cuisine was created from the beginning from a globalized perspective. “Right at the beginning of colonization, the Portuguese took species such as cassava and corn to Africa, which soon became widespread foods there, becoming the main crops in several kingdoms, so much so that huge numbers of slaves were already they knew them when they arrived in Brazil, thus constituting the common substrate of the popular cuisine that affects us”, he explains.

And similar processes continued to happen and are repeated to this day. “There is no isolated Brazil. Chefs who innovate are in an international network, inventing a culinary Brazil integrated into the world”, she says.


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