Critical Section

Brazilian food innovation

Thursday,  11/20/08  09:18 PM

The other day in my travelogue from Brazil with more from Rio I mentioned a little hole-in-the-wall where I ate lunch, which featured an interesting innovation, apparently common throughout Brazil; a buffet where you pay by the pound.  It was a nice system, you pay only for what you eat, and you can have a lot or a little depending on how hungry you are (and how good the food looks :)  Brazil has a lot of people, a lot of poor people, a lot of people who don't have enough to eat every day, and in consequence serving you only what you want to eat is an important meme.  Even the wealthy do not waste food.

One night we had dinner in a fantastic Churrascaria, a Brazilian steak house, where the staff brought a continuous stream of joists of meat right to our table. 

Churrascaria in São Paulo

You choose which ones look good, and they slice off a piece for you.  I say continuous but actually there was a simple pacing mechanism, a little round card which was green (Sim = yes) on one side, and red (Não = no) on the other:

Churrascaria - Sim / Não

Put the card green side up, and meat comes to your table, red side up, it stops.  This seems like a great system.  First, you get to see exactly what you're going to eat, and it is served hot, right from the barbeque.  Second, you only eat what you want, no food is wasted. And third, you can eat at your own pace.  All the accompaniments to the meat are available at a buffet - salad, grains, vegetables, etc...  again, you take only what you want.

I have to smile as I recall this São Paulo restaurant was named "Texas de Brazil"; just as we think of Brazilian or Argentine meat as being really good (and it is), they think of Texas.  The grass is always greener...

The emphasis on eating only what you want is important, I think we could use this in the U.S.  There are restaurants I frequent - you do too, I'm sure, (the Claim Jumper chain comes to mind) - where you get a huge serving, more than anyone could possibly eat, which you have to pay for, and the remainder of which after you eat is subsequently thrown out.  Not only is it wasteful and expensive, but you are encouraged to eat too much :)


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