African influences permeate every part of Brazilian culture, but it’s perhaps most ubiquitous in the country’s cuisine. From feijoada to feijao tropeiro mineiro, African flavors and techniques – particularly those from West Africa – have enhanced the Brazilian table. In an upcoming episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Bourdain visits Minas Gerais to explore to what degree African foods inspired Brazilian cuisine.
Chatting with Zora Santos – who traveled Europe as one of the first Afro-Brazilian models and now encourages independent black women in the kitchen – Bourdain asks, “How African is Brazilian cuisine in general?” “90 percent,” Bourdain’s table mates respond, prompting him to question if white Brazilians would answer in the same way.
And whether or not indigenous, Portuguese, and other cultures only have 10 percent influence on Brazilian cuisine, it’s hard to deny the connection between the South American country and Africa. Between the 1530s to 1888, about 4 million Africans were forced into slavery in Brazil, according to Africa Redux. Brazil was the last place in the Americas to outlaw slavery, and it’s currently home to the biggest African diaspora.
For Zora, this history’s important to preserve. She proudly uses the same techniques that her ancestors – enslaved African women – used. Her food has a heavy emphasis on vegetables and greens – items that were more easily accessible for the women who came before her.
After spending time with Zora and company, Anthony Bourdain concludes: “But look everything Brazilians claim to love is African, right? I mean, the music, the food, all of the classic dishes.” Check out the short clip below:
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown “Minas Gerais, Brazil” airs on Sunday, November 20 at 9 p.m. on CNN.