Jan 302019
 

Today is the Day of Saudade in Brazil. I’m not sure why, but I’ll try to unpack the concept a little. Why you would want to celebrate saudade mystifies me. The word “saudade” has no equivalent in English, and its meaning is complicated in Portuguese. It is something like nostalgia, but more nuanced. It is a feeling of emptiness when you miss someone or something that is a mix of sadness and joy.

Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one’s children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings together: sadness for missing and happiness for experiencing the past.

In the book In Portugal (1912), A. F. G. Bell writes:

The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.

A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as old ways and sayings; a lost lover who is sadly missed; a faraway place where one was raised; loved ones who have died; feelings and stimuli one used to have; and the faded, yet golden memories of youth. Although it relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of things/people/days gone by, it can be a rush of sadness coupled with a paradoxical joy derived from acceptance of fate and the hope of recovering or substituting what is lost by something that will either fill in the void or provide consolation.

Saudade has been an inspiration for art and for many songs and compositions. “Sodade” (saudade in Cape Verdean Creole) is the title of the Cape Verde singer Cesária Évora’s most famous song. Étienne Daho, a French singer, also produced a song of the same name. The Good Son, a 1990 album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, was heavily informed by Cave’s mental state at the time, which he has described as saudade. He told journalist Chris Bohn: “When I explained to someone that what I wanted to write about was the memory of things that I thought were lost for me, I was told that the Portuguese word for this feeling was saudade. It’s not nostalgia but something sadder.”

The usage of saudade as a theme in Portuguese music goes back to the 16th century, the golden age of Portugal. Saudade, as well as love suffering, is a common theme in many villancicos and cantigas composed by Portuguese authors; for example: “Lágrimas de Saudade” (tears of saudade), which is an anonymous work from the Cancioneiro de Paris. Fado is a Portuguese music style, generally sung by a single person (the fadista) along with a Portuguese guitar. The most popular themes of fado are saudade, nostalgia, jealousy, and short stories of the typical city quarters. Fado and saudade are intertwined key ideas in Portuguese culture. The word fado comes from Latin fatum meaning “fate” or “destiny”. Fado is a musical cultural expression and recognition of this unassailable determinism which compels the resigned yearning of saudade, a bitter-sweet, existential yearning and hopefulness towards something over which one has no control.

Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, whose father is a Galician, speaks of saudade in his song “Un Canto a Galicia”. In the song, he passionately uses the phrase to describe a deep and sad longing for his motherland, Galicia. He also performs a song called “Morriñas”, which describes the Galicians as having a deeply strong saudade.

The Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios wrote several pieces invoking the feeling of saudade, including Choro de Saudade and Preludio Saudade. The term is prominent in Brazilian popular music, including the first bossa nova song, “Chega de Saudade” (“No more saudade”, usually translated as “No More Blues”), written by Tom Jobim. Jazz pianist Bill Evans recorded the tune “Saudade de Brasil” numerous times. In 1919, on returning from two years in Brazil, the French composer Darius Milhaud composed a suite, Saudades do Brasil, which exemplified the concept of saudade.

Since saudade is strongly associated with missing one’s homeland, foods can be a part of the feeling. I’ve often had a hankering for a certain food, not just because of the taste, but also because of all the associations that go along with that dish. In the late 1960s I loved the steak and kidney pies that the landlady of my local pub made, and those days are gone along with the pies. In Argentina I used to spend idle nights conjuring up the hot pastrami on rye sandwiches I used to get on the lower East Side of New York with my girlfriend (I also used to miss lox and bagels).

These days I don’t really hanker over anything much – a sign of living a contented life, I guess. This is undoubtedly a good thing given that Cambodia is a wasteland when it comes to European ingredients. I make do. I wouldn’t mind some fresh spinach once in a while, or a nice wedge of aged Stilton, but I don’t yearn for it – no saudade. I do miss honeycomb now and again, but not desperately so. Furthermore, I believe that I have given recipes already for all the dishes I hold nearest and dearest (including Cincinnati chili). Since I don’t get many comments, you could do me a favor and post a comment on the dish or food that brings back old memories for you.

 

Nov 202018
 

On this date in 1695, Zumbi, the last of the leaders of Quilombo dos Palmares in Brazil, was murdered (or assassinated or executed – whatever verb you prefer) by the forces of Portuguese bandeirante Domingos Jorge Velho. The event is now celebrated in Brazil as Black Awareness Day or Black Consciousness Day (Dia da Consciência Negra) “to celebrate a regained awareness by the black community about their great worth and contribution to the country”.

Zumbi (1655 – November 20, 1695), also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, was a major freedom fighter in Brazilian history, being one of the pioneers of resistance to slavery. He was also the last of the kings of the Quilombo dos Palmares, a settlement of African-Brazilian people who had liberated themselves from enslavement, in the present-day state of Alagoas. Zumbi today is revered in African-Brazilian culture as a powerful symbol of anti-slave and anti-colonial resistance.

Quilombos were communities in Brazil founded by individuals of African descent who escaped slavery (these escaped slaves were commonly referred to as Maroons). Members of quilombos often returned to plantations or towns to encourage their former fellow slaves to flee and join the quilombos. Sometimes, they brought others by force and sabotaged plantations. People who came to quilombos of their own were considered free, but those who were captured and brought by force were considered slaves and continued to be so in the new settlements. They could be considered free if they were to bring another captive to the settlement. Women were also targets of capture, and were forcibly relocated to Palmares. Some women, however, fled voluntarily to Palmares to escape abusive spouses and or masters. Men were also recruited to join Palmares and even Portuguese soldiers fleeing forced recruitment were sought out.

Palmares was established around 1605 by 40 enslaved central Africans who fled to the heavily forested hills that parallel the northern coast of Brazil. Here they instituted a free settlement they called Angola janga (Little Angola), which grew to be the greatest community of escaped slaves in the Americas. Portuguese authorities called this area Palmares, due to its many palm trees, and were locked in deadly clashes with it for much of the 17th century.

Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining kingdom of Maroons escaped from the Portuguese settlements in Brazil, a region perhaps the size of Portugal in the hinterland of Pernambuco. At its height, Palmares had a population of more than 30,000. Palmares developed into a confederation of 11 towns, spanning rugged mountainous terrain in frontier zones across the present-day states of Alagoas and Pernambuco. Palmares was an autonomous state based on African political and religious customs that supported itself though means of agriculture, fishing, hunting, gathering, trading, and raiding nearby Brazilian plantations and settlements.

Zumbi’s mother Sabina was a sister of Ganga Zumba, who is said to have been the son of princess Aqualtune, daughter of an unknown king of Kongo. It is unknown if Zumbi’s mother was also daughter of the princess, but this still makes him related to the Kongo nobility. Zumbi and his relatives were of Central African descent. They were brought to the Americas after the Battle of Mbwila, which occurred in modern-day Angola. The Portuguese won the battle eventually, killing 5,000 men, and capturing the king, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles who were put on ships and sold as slaves in the Americas. It is very probable that Ganga and Sabina were among these nobles. The whereabouts of the rest of the individuals captured after the Battle of Mbwila is unknown. Some are believed to have been sent to Spanish America, but Ganga Zumba, his brother Zona and Sabina were made slaves at the plantation of Santa Rita in the Captaincy of Pernambuco in what is now northeast Brazil. From there, they escaped to Palmares.

Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655. He was captured by the Portuguese and given to a missionary, Father António Melo, when he was approximately 6 years old. Father António Melo baptized Zumbi and gave him the name of Francisco. Zumbi was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with Catholic mass. Despite attempts to subjugate him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and he was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early 20s.

By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco, Pedro Almeida, weary of the longstanding conflict with Palmares, approached its king Ganga Zumba with an olive branch. Almeida offered freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. But Zumbi – who became the commander-in-chief of the kingdom’s forces in 1675 – was distrustful of the Portuguese. Further, he refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida’s overture and challenged Ganga Zumba’s kingship. In 1687 Ganga Zumba was killed by his nephew Zumbi, who sought to implement a far more aggressive stance against the Portuguese. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new king of Palmares.

Zumbi’s determination and heroic efforts to fight for Palmares’ independence increased his prestige. However, when Zumbi gained authority, tensions with the Portuguese quickly escalated. In 1694, fifteen years after Zumbi assumed kingship of Palmares, the Portuguese colonists under the military commanders Domingos Jorge Velho and Bernardo Vieira de Melo launched an assault on the Palmares. They made use of artillery as well as a fierce force of Brazilian Indian fighters, which took 42 days to defeat the kingdom. On February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos, or Maroons, of Palmares, the Portuguese succeeded in destroying Cerca do Macaco, the kingdom’s central settlement. Some resistance continued, but on November 20, 1695 Zumbi was killed and decapitated, his head displayed on a pike to dispel any legends of his immortality.

Although it was eventually crushed, the success of Palmares through most of the 17th century greatly challenged colonial authority and would stand as a beacon of slave resistance in the times to come.

November 20th is celebrated, chiefly in Brazil, as a day of African-Brazilian consciousness. The day has special meaning for those Brazilians of African descent who honor Zumbi as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom. Zumbi has become a hero of the 20th-century African-Brazilian political movement, as well as a national hero in Brazil.

Here is a recipe for moqueca, a Brazilian fish stew with rice that is found in coastal Brazil.

Moqueca

Ingredients

Soup

2 lbs fillet of halibut, cut into large portions
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 tbsp lime juice
salt and black pepper
olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup green onion greens, chopped
½ yellow and ½ red bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, and chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sweet paprika
red pepper flakes
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped
14-ounce can coconut milk

Rice

1 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 ¾ cups boiling water
salt

Instructions

Place the fish pieces in a bowl, add the minced garlic and lime juice so that the pieces are well coated. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Keep chilled while preparing the rest of the soup.

For the rice: Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Add the chopped ½ onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the raw white rice and stir to coat completely with the oil, onions, and garlic. Add the boiling water. Add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes, after which, remove from heat until ready to serve with the soup.

Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes to taste. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook for a few minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and onion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Use a large spoon to remove about half of the vegetables. Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces on the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add back the previously removed vegetables, covering the fish. Pour coconut milk over the fish and vegetables.

Bring soup to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with the rice.

Aug 192016
 

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World Humanitarian Day is a day dedicated to the recognition of people carrying out humanitarian work and those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as part of a Swedish-sponsored GA Resolution A/63/L.49 on the Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Assistance of the United Nations, and set as 19 August. It marks the day on which the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Sérgio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad.

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A national of Brazil, Sérgio Vieira de Mello dedicated a lifetime spanning over thirty years in the United Nations, serving in some of the most challenging humanitarian situations in the world to reach the voiceless victims of armed conflict, to alleviate their suffering and to draw attention to their plight. His death together with 21 colleagues on 19 August 2003 in Baghdad, deprived the victims of armed conflict worldwide of a humanitarian leader of unmatched courage, drive and empathy who championed their cause fearlessly and etched their plight on the world map. The tragic event also robbed the humanitarian community of an outstanding humanitarian leader and intellectual whose thinking, philosophy, dynamism, and courage inspired all, and whose timeless efforts should be a model for coming generations to emulate.

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Mindful of this legacy, in 2006 the Vieira de Mello family and a group of close friends founded the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation dedicated to continuing his unfinished mission of encouraging dialogue between communities and relieving the plight of victims of humanitarian crises. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting initiatives and efforts to promote dialogue for peaceful reconciliation and co-existence between peoples and communities divided by conflict through an annual Sergio Vieira Mello Award, an Annual Sergio Vieira Mello Memorial Lecture, a Sergio Vieira de Mello Fellowship and advocating for the security and independence of humanitarian workers, wherever they may be operating and whomever they may be operating for. The Foundation views World Humanitarian Day as a befitting tribute to all humanitarian personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifices to make the world a better place for all victims of humanitarian crises and an encouragement to all their colleagues to aspire to even greater heights in accomplishing that laudable goal.

The Sérgio Vieira de Mello Foundation is committed to working closely with all Governments, the United Nations, International Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations to make Word Humanitarian Day a meaningful observance every year. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is leading efforts to plan and guide the observance of the Day that will be commemorated annually world wide by Governments, the United Nations and International Humanitarian Organizations and NGOs.

World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time on 19 August 2009. Subsequent years have focused on a particular theme. In 2010, the focus was on the actual work and achievements of humanitarian workers in the field, with the theme, “We are Humanitarian Workers.” The 2011 campaign, “People Helping People” was about inspiring the spirit of aid work in everyone. The 2012 campaign, “I Was Here” was about making your mark by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else. The campaign has had a social reach of more than 1 billion people around the world. It was supported by the singer Beyoncé, whose music video for the song “I Was Here” has been viewed more than 50 million times.

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In 2013, the UN and its partners launched a project called “The World Needs More…”. In collaboration with global advertising firm Leo Burnett, the campaign aims to turn words into aid for people affected by humanitarian crises. Private sector companies and philanthropists are being encouraged to sponsor a word that they believe the world could use more of, e.g. “action.” People can then ‘unlock’ money pledged by sponsors by ‘sharing’ these words through social media, SMS and through the campaign website at www.worldhumanitarianday.org  Events to mark World Humanitarian Day and launch the campaign were held in more than 50 countries around the world.

World Humanitarian Day also aims to bring attention to the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis in the world today. The UN’s Agenda for Humanity has five areas of focus.

1 End & Prevent Conflict

2 Respect Rules of War

3 Leave No One Behind

4 Work Differently To End Need

5 Invest In Humanity

If #1 were in effect there would be no need for #2 of course.

The Syrian refugee crisis is of major importance right now, but the UN estimates that at least 130 million people in the world today are in crisis because of war. It’s quite easy to discern counterproductive imperatives in developed countries: they cause conflict around the world and then refuse to help the refugees who are displaced by their actions. Monstrous. We ALL must speak out. Spread the word.

It would not be right to celebrate conflict and the refuge crisis, but I the day is really about honoring the life of Sérgio Vieira de Mello (as well as all humanitarian aid workers). So, a Brazilian recipe is in order. What could be more Brazilian than feijoada?  At root feijoada is a stew of black beans and meat, and, of course, you can cook it a million different ways. Here is a serviceable recipe. You can alter the meats, but it must have black beans.

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Feijoada

Ingredients

1 lb/480 g dry black beans
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb 480 g pork shoulder, cut into chunks
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 lb/450 g carne seca or corned beef, cut into chunks
½ lb/225 g fresh Brazilian pork sausage
1 lb/480 g  lingüiça  (smoked sausage)
1 smoked ham hock or shank
3-4 bay leaves
1 14.5 oz/411 g crushed tomatoes
salt
meat stock

Instructions

Soak the black beans overnight in cold water.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot over medium-high heat and add the onions and pork shoulder and brown them well all over. Add the garlic and sauté 2 more minutes.

Add the other meats and bay leaves, and cover with rich stock. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour.

Drain the black beans from their soaking liquid and add them to the meat. Continue simmering gently, covered, until the beans are tender – about 1½ hours.

Add the tomatoes, stir well, and taste for seasoning. Add salt if needed.

Simmer the stew, uncovered, for a further 2-3 hours.

Serve with white rice and hot sauce.

As side dishes you can serve collard greens and fried plantains.