Arroz e feijão

Arroz e feijao

“Arroz e feijão” – rice and beans – are an essential, if not indispensable, part of every Brazilian lunch. EVERY lunch, every day, 365 days a year…
The rice and beans are joined – also every day – by a piece of meat which, depending on the budget, might be frango – chicken, carne – meat, synonymous with beef, or peixe – fish. Further depending on the region also comes on the table vinaigrette, actually a kind of tomato salad and farofa, roasted manioc flour which varies in taste anywhere between ,sand’ and ‘tasty & crispy’.

Independent of this menu, the expression ‘arroz e feijão‘ also stands for the ordinary, the business as usual, the boring monotony that Brazilians remember longingly – com saudade – once they are abroad.  Oh, yes, saudade…

There is hardly a more Brazilian word to be found. It describes the longing for the good old days, order, warm summer nights, the good time with friends, freedom, the beach and much more. In English, however, there seems to be no adequate translation for it.

In any case, ‘saudade’ is a fundamental concept that helps to understand the Brazilian way of thinking and living. Just as important in that respect is “dar um jeito”, or in its short form “o jeitinho”, best translated as ‘to find a way’. It mainly means two things: or to help someone, to take heart, to support or to cheat, to muddle through and even to play a trick on someone. However, that’s not all.

In its trinity o jeitinho represents the  complexity of the Brazilian existence: First, it states that there is always a way,  a path to cross, for example, the jungle of the Brazilian bureaucracy. Second, the range of possible uses of this beautiful idiom reflects the wide range of characteristic Brazilian – not to say human – behavior: from very generous and helpful to spiteful and selfish; with one behavior not necessarily contradicting the other.

To finish, let me add one more particularly picturesque expression to this idiomatic collection: “pé na Jaca” . Jacas – better known as jackfruit to the English speaking world – when cut open, emit a very sticky secretion that is all but impossible to wipe of with soap and water. The expression reminds me therefore nicely of the good old German “ins Fettnäpfchen treten”*. 


Well, I hope I haven’t done just that with this post.

* to put your foot in your mouth – hardly as pretty as pé na jaca


4 responses to “Arroz e feijão

  1. I like to put food in my mouth.

  2. Sometimes I have to indulge my inclination to pedantry.

  3. If I could ‘like’ your last comment, I would 😉

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