EXCLUSIVE – Since October 2002, more than 1000 children attending public schools in the city of Rio de Janeiro have had the opportunity to learn about Brazil’s food history and culture thanks to Projeto Mandioca, a program developed by Terra Madre chefs Teresa Corção and Margarida Nogueira (who is also leader of the convivium of Rio).
Teresa and Margarida are working to encourage better appreciation among children of their own families’ culinary riches and to increase interest in Brazil’s gastronomic legacy and important food products.
‘Manioc was and still is Brazil’s “bread”,’ says Teresa. ‘Since the times when the Portuguese colonizers had yet to arrived, manioc has been a major source of carbohydrates. It provides the energy needed to undertake hard work and can be considered the blood of the Brazilian land.’
With this in mind, the two chefs worked together to develop a project highlighting the importance of manioc, teaching young students through informal classes, theater and hands-on cooking lessons in the preparation of tapioca and other traditional Brazilian dishes.
Manioc was the most important ingredient for native Indian populations and is used in numerous dishes such as porridges, cakes and breads (pirão, beiju, mingau, paçoca). On discovering that the climate of the newly discovered lands was not suitable for cultivating European wheat, colonizers quickly adopted manioc. No other product holds such an important place in Brazilian cuisine.
The project has received a very enthusiastic response and there are plans to form a team of volunteer teachers to replicate it in other cities. The Brazilian agro-industry research company, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, which studies manioc, is providing support.
Benedito Batista da Silva produces manioc flour in the Amazon region and was also a delegate at Terra Madre 2006. In 2007, Teresa’s husband, Manuel Lampreia Carvalho, produced the documentary, M. Bené goes to Italy, describing the interesting life of 60-year-old Benedito and his experiences during this world meeting of food communities.
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Video produced by Fran Osseo-Asare: