What is that you ask? The experience that every traveler covets, dreams about and wanders miles off the beaten path to find.
Sure visiting places like Ipanema Beach and Iguazu Falls are pretty awesome, but those are touristy activities. Being a traveller is going beyond the snapshots of crowds queuing for the same picture against a popular landmark. Being a traveler is going after deeper experiences, deeper connections, learning what makes a place tick and then yearning to live it.
If you go to Brazil and want to understand what it is to be Brazilian, then this is one of the experiences you can’t pass up. Feijoada and Samba is not just the perfect marriage of remarkable food and music, but it is the holy grail of the history and foundation of a country and its people.
When you look at a country from a traveler’s eyes, Feijoada is not just a bean and meat stew and samba is not just a music and dance genre. It is the history of how slaves in sugar cane plantations took scraps of meat (Pig’s ears, feet, tail and beef scraps) and slow cooked it with beans for hours to create sustenance for a large group. It is not about the suffering and injustice befallen on those slaves during that time in history, but how their ingenuity, musicality and spirit became irreplaceable contributions to a young country: ingrained into traditions and celebrated for centuries.
Feijoada and Samba is not about celebrating the past. No, it’s about living the present. It is not just a feast of food and sounds, it is so much more. It’s a weekly celebration of what it is to be Brazilian, in a corner bar, singing and dancing to familiar songs, eating and drinking with loved ones. Watch the musicians and you may just feel the emotions in a song, fall in love with a new instrument/music genre or feel the urge to join the revelry.
Experiences like Feijoada and Samba are the ones that tourists will never understand, but the traveler, the explorer, he/she exists solely to find and live it.
Ps: Today’s Feijoada can contain all those meats mentioned above or be made with nicer cuts of meat. It is served with rice, collard greens, oranges, deep-fried pork rinds and “farofa”, yucca flour that is toasted and seasoned with different spices and ingredients.
Central da Vila Bar is a completely unpretentious neighborhood bar at Vila Madalena neighborhood. It was actually the third place we had gone that day to try to find Feijoada and Samba. The first place had no tables left, the second wich ended up being across the street from Central da Vila was closed for no reason that we could tell, even though on their website it still showed a scheduled Samba group. We were so lucky that those two places didn’t work out, because otherwise we would not have found this gem!
Where there’s music in Brazil, there will be people dancing. After late lunch hours (3-5pm) the tables are pushed to the side and space is made for people to dance and as you can see, tables become merely a place to put your drinks or purses. Outdoor seating is available, but the fun is inside.
The stars of the day. There would be no Samba without this group. They play from 2-7pm every Saturday and they are the only group in the Vila Madalena neighborhood that plays old school samba. You must, must, must go watch these guys!
The other star of the day. This dish is fantastic. It will lead you to a food coma for the next 4 hours, but it is worth it. Beef, pork and beans cooked for hours in a clay pot. All that crusty stuff on the side is just validation of its slow cook goodness. Don’t visit Brazil without trying this!
Ok, so if you drink, this would be the third star of the day. Caipirinha or in this case Caipiroska. Vodka, passion fruit, sugar, ice and a dash of water. Absolutely delicious!!!
And I really don’t think you can explain Samba through pictures. You have to listen and be there to feel your heart thump and your limbs invariably sway to the beat. I, however, tried my best to shoot this video for you, but it doesn’t do it justice. Crank up the volume while watching…