Originally published in Africa.Redux.
The rich melting pot of African, European and indigenous culture permeates nearly every facet of life in Brazil, including of course the country’s culinary traditions. While “creole” culture exists throughout the Americas, the influence of Africa features more prominently in Brazil than in any other country in the Americas with a legacy of African slavery. The Brazilian table of today has deep roots in the African continent, particularly West Africa. African migration to Brazil via the Atlantic slave trade dwarfed that of elsewhere, and slavery maintained a presence in Brazil for considerably longer than in other nations. From 1530 to 1888 (the year of abolition), approximately 4 million Africans were brought to Brazil and forced to labor on sugar and coffee plantations, in the country’s gold mines and in the homes of the wealthy in the major cities. The sheer volume of African slavery had a profound effect (and continues to have) with respect to the transfer of culture and cuisine, in particular the cultural and culinary traditions of West African nations such as Angola, Guinea, Congo, Nigeria, Togo and Benin. Today Brazil has the largest overseas African diaspora of any country in the world, and in fact, has a larger black or brown population than any country in the world except Nigeria.
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John Verlander is the chef and founder of CASATREZE. John is also a co-founder of Mealku, a New York City-based online platform that connects aspiring culinary entrepreneurs to busy professionals seeking handmade, organic meals delivered hot to their desks. He moved from New York City to Brasilia in December 2013.