He will probably deny it, but I clearly remember hearing Feng talking to a banana, one night in Rio.
“Why are you doing that to me? This is bullshit! You’re yellow, what are you raw?”
Okay, maybe his last sentence was less poetic but I couldn’t help nodding along hearing him arguing with a fruit.
I knew exactly why he was frustrated.
It happens to me all the time as well.
Bananas aren’t exactly a rare fruit in Brazil. In fact, you can probably pick one from a tree anywhere you are in the country.
But picking the right banana—in the wild or at the supermarket—is trickier than it seems.
There are several varieties of bananas and the first time I tried to buy bananas, I was completely clueless. I remember standing there in the fruit section of the supermarket when an old woman suddenly grabbed my arm.
“Bananas,” she said.
“Yes, but which ones are good to eat?” I asked in broken Portuguese.
“Yes, you can eat them. You have to open them. Eat the inside,” she explained patiently to a stupid gringa who looked like she had never seen a banana before.
My problem was, I was facing bananas da terra, bananas maça, banana nanica and bananas prata. Confusing, right?
I kind of figured it out with experience—yes, the whole peeling and eating the inside.
Bananas da terra are plantains. They are long, kind of flatten, starchy, and they are supposed to be cooked. Bananas maça are “apple bananas” and they kind of taste like apples. The skin can turn completely black but not the inside—tricky! Now, the banana nanica, also called banana d’água for added confusion, seem to be the kind of banana we get in North America. Bananas prata are small, thick, not very sweet and the most common around here.
In Canada or in Europe, we tend to pick the bright-yellow banana with no black spots. Ah, good luck achieving that in Brazil! Fruits aren’t as “perfect” (which is perfectly fine) and as Feng discovered, yellow skin doesn’t mean it’s ripe. Go figure.
Finding vegetables, I can cook is another challenge. I cook my own dinner, usually pasta with veggies and some protein (eggs I make or fish, chicken or meat I buy from the comida por kilo). Cooking is healthier and cheaper when you’re on the road for months at a time. Now, I think I like pretty much every veggie, but I don’t have the knife skills to deal with chuchu (chayote) or macaxeira (cassava), and the aisles are full of it. Oh, the size of most veggies!
Forget about tomatoes (very meh in Brazil, Argentina next door is the queen of tomato) and mushrooms (surprisingly expensive, except in Japanese supermarkets in São Paulo). I buy broccoli, I mean, brócolis ninja because this is the variant you find in many places over the country, but not all. And yes, I do pretend I’m a ninja when I cut it, because why not? I also buy zucchinis, but they are huge in Brazil. Green pepper is another popular veggie and oh my, it’s so tasty here…
I love shopping for food in Brazil. It’s a never-ending adventure and everything is so tasty, so colourful, and there’s so much variety! One of the highlights of my five days in Aracaju was the downtown market. It was the perfect market to wander around and take pictures—not too crowded, not too chaotic.
So here is what I found or what ended up on my plate lately…