The feast starts with “Great Power”, a dish inspired by a homonymous Northeastern folk song by Alagoan composer Mestre Verdelinho (Coqueiro, 1945), recorded by the band Comadre Fulozinha, and by the legend of the cassava (the “Legend of Mani”) in which a tribal witchdoctor’s prophecy concerning the advent of an unknown plant was followed by the birth of Mani, a girl who subsequently died. Her grave was soon populated with a plant whose root was found to be nutritious, and came to be known as “manioc”, or cassava.
The dish, the song and the legend celebrate cassava, which is the most prolific indigenous contribution to Brazilian cuisine. The main recipe also references the popularity of ducks as a Brazilian colonial staple.
Savouring the dish while listening to the live rendition of the song marks the start of a staged journey across a typical Brazilian performance landscape.
Great Power” is essentially an edible lampshade made of cassava paper with indigenous patterns printed in relief. These patterns also appear on the edges of the plate base made of plain wood with hollows containing snacks: on top, crunchy cassava; below, melting dumplings of tacacá, a delicacy from the Amazon region. On the side, the main course: cured duck with a sauce of arubé, a kind of indigenous mustard made from tucupi and grainy cassava flour.
“The Bishop’s Head”
This exploits the theme of human cannibalism. The rationale is to reassess gastronomy in terms of concepts first articulated on the 1928 Anthropophagic Manifesto. The joke in the title comes from the story of the first Brazilian cannibalistic feast, in which the “main dish” was Bishop Sardinha, eaten by Caeté natives on the North-eastern coast in the 16th century.
“The Bishop’s Head” metaphorically associates the ingestion of the bishop with both gastronomy and modernity. The idea of “ingestion” evokes the concept of identity in that, as Brazilians, we’re constantly ingesting The Other – foreign food, fast food, junk food, international gastronomy standards – and digesting the worthwhile imported features with the potential to add to our own cuisine – things like new techniques and ingredients.
3D design techniques are used to shape a silver head made with grilled sardine mousse and an Eastern sauce, served on crispy bread with etchings of fossils, and an açaí leaf on which the “Como Penso Como” Manifesto is printed. The full Manifesto is recited during the eating of this course.
This course is inspired by an event called “The Fiscal Island Ball”, the last great bash of the Brazilian monarchy before the country became a Republic. A “sonho” (“dream”) is a traditional Portuguese sweet bread, similar to a Berliner. The version in “Real/Royal Dream” is made salty as a parody of the ball’s failure to buttress the monarchy’s power in contempt of the republican threat. Six days later, the Republic would be proclaimed, evidencing the Portuguese court’s grotesque detachment from reality. Marked by excess and extravagance, the ball became known as most pretentious party in Brazil’s history.
“Real/Royal Dream” is made from sonho dough, flavoured with oregano and stuffed with cod brandade. The crown is crunchy garlic with diamonds of maldon salt. Under the sonho, there is a portion of codfish lined with burr gherkin slices cured in seafood sauce. The little cold porcelain pillow represents the Portuguese nobility which gave support to the soon-to-crumble dream of the Crown. The pillow has a golden-printed fac-simile of the menu on offer at the Fiscal Island Ball.
In the accompanying performance, the actors play with the ingredients used in the banquet, lampooning the extinction of the guan by the royal dream that failed to materialise.
“Prayer Air, Channelled byOlumaré”
This course is based on the African roots of some of our cuisine. It takes the form of a tribute to the Orixás, inspired by the rites of Candomblé and its food offerings to saints. Food and eating are fundamental features of Candomblé ceremonies. Food is seen as a vital force, a creative and bounteous principle. Food concentrates the maximum energy for an offering and the power that fortifies the ancestors.The food offered to an Orixá must follow intricate rules that have to do with the function it is expected to carry out, as evidenced by the multiple ways of preparing and combining ingredients. Each resulting dish produces a different relationship between the offering votary, their community and the Orixá.
Prayer Air” has the deities Iemanjá, Ogum and Exú represented by three amulets made from rice flour dough with coconut milk, each filled with unique oblations: yam, fish, shrimp and garlic flowers for Iemanjá; palm wine and okra for Ogum; and capon and biquinho pepper for Exú.
Central to the plate is an edible transparent sphere giving off smoke flavoured with spices and kola nut. Candomblé holds this nut sacred as it is believed to store all positive thoughts of the most powerful Orixás. The sphere is made of sugar and rests on a bed of acaçá, a cream made with white corn and lemon. The final touches are a vatapá sauce and acarajé farofa.
“A Goat’s Exploits in theKingdom of the Well-Heeled”
With inspiration drawn from the cangaço universe of Lampião, the notorious Northeastern bandit leader, this dish is made with goat’s shoulder, pumpkin and rice – all Northeastern staples – and is packed in a lunch box in the shape of a mandacaru cactus made by one of the few remaining masters of the convoluted chiselling technique from the region.
The cateto rice comes from small family farmers and is made with pumpkin water, beef broth, bottled butter and semi-cured cheese.
The glazed goat shoulder emulates the aesthetics of Lampião and his band. On the side, is a portion of paçoca (dried meat, cassava flour and bottled butter, all beaten in a mortar to a sandy texture), a prickly pear jelly, a slice of siphoned peanut cake and some purslane.
The mandacaru cactus is also a reminder of Abaporu, a celebrated painting by Tarsila do Amaral that includes devotional elements used in cangaço clothing, such as coins on hats. The dish topping has two sides of a coin with God on one side and the devil on the other, in an allusion to film-maker Glauber Rocha’s “Black God, White Devil”.
The course proposes the creation of a metaphor between the ingredients and the Brazilian people. In order to exist, both must be resistant to harsh climates. Diners are led to an awareness of our history and the power of endurance gained through consuming those ingredients.
“Bones of the Job”
This dish pays tribute to the women of a Mato Grosso do Sul community called Jardins who have been benefited by a social project focused on arts and crafts. One of the community’s jobs is to reuse bovine bones collected from the local cattle farms and carefully scrape and sculpt them into ivory-like carvings.
“Bones of the Job” is served on top of these individual carvings depicting the region’s fauna. The course is a cured and fried crispy pancetta, accompanied by citrus-fruit puree, stuffed with rib ragout and pumpkin cream with Canastra cheese, and pickles made of organically-farmed vegetables and edible flowers from the Maria Farm, accompanied by yerba-mate chimichurri. While the dish is served, a rap song is performed celebrating Brazilian craftsmanship.
“As Cheap as Bananas”
With inspiration from Carmen Miranda, her bangles and fruit hats, and from the quote “Banana is my business”, this dish questions the stereotypical image of a Brazil “sold as dear as gold” and displays a cuisine imbued with self-awareness and humour.
The image of the phrase “as cheap as bananas” is used in ironic counterpoint to “as dear as gold” by coating a fake banana in golden paint. Various self-deprecating expressions with ‘banana’ referring to Brazilians are alluded to, making the banana seem to be the price of Brazil since forever. On the other hand, the banana as a symbol of national identity brings with it a sense of unpretentious ease, as it brings joy and fun to a people with a penchant for boundless bliss, though with an inability to positively explore their most deeply ingrained values.
The dish is a banana-shaped confection made of caramelised white chocolate mousse with a banana jam filling, covered by a golden cinnamon coating over a thin slice of cheese. The whole is presented on a cold porcelain sculpture referring back to Miranda’s bangles.
Inspired by the Whitsunday Celebration, “Conflict!” references the Catholic influence on Brazilian food. The Brazilian version of the celebration harks back to a 14th-century conflict between the husband and son of Queen Elizabeth of Portugal, who prayed to the Holy Spirit for peace. The dish is meant as a reminder that, despite the peace that reigns during Whitsunday, the world around us is full of war and discord. The figure of the Divine Dove representing peace and harmony rests in the centre of the plate surrounded by clamour and strife.
A bonfire-shaped sweet is made of creamy chili chocolate with cupuaçu jam, baru nut and cocoa cake bathed in white chocolate. Around the centrepiece, chili chocolate mousse and crunchy araçá are used to print the names of countries with ongoing clashes, whether caused by religion or on the outskirts of large cities. While the dish is being served, a rap song is performed on the same subjects.
The banquet closes with a tray that reminisces over delicacies from various childhoods in the collective imagination, evoking early sensations of sounds, smells, shapes and textures. All sweets in this dish are Brazilian staples easily found anywhere in the country: paçoca, guava paste, popcorn and soursop candy.
“Brazilian Tray” is inspired by the story of the confectioner Manuela, who found love and freedom through her tray, just like many other confectioners who make their living from peddling delicacies and are widely portrayed in Brazilian art and lore.
A number of women singers dressed as typical “bahianas” offer sweets to the diners. The sweets are a paçoca made of peanut mousse wrapped in coconut leaf and shaped like the well-known Amor candy, a cheese mousse with guava paste wrapped in guava paper, a sweet-popcorn-shaped tapioca, and a jabuticaba candy. All rest on an edible lace made of soursop. With those sweet tender memories, diners are invited to experience a new way to savour their childhood classics.