June 13th marks the start of the Festas Juninas (June Festivals) in Brazil, a huge celebration in the Northeast of the country that originated as a harvest festival. Food plays a huge role in the Festas Juninas, particularly corn, one of the major crops harvested at this time. One of the most popular corn-centric Junina dishes, and one you can make easily in the US, is the pamonha, a relative of the Mexican tamale. Though both are made from corn and steamed or boiled in corn husks, there are few differences: typical Mexican tamales are made with dried corn and steamed in dried husks, while pamonhas are made with grated fresh corn and cooked in fresh husks. To make pamonha you cut the corn kernels right off the cob, and Flavors of Brazil has a simple recipe for a classic pamonha. Pamonha varieties may be filled with meat, or there are even sweet varieties with coconut or condensed milk. Though strongly associated with the Northeast and Festas Juninas, pamonhas are now sold throughout the year by street vendors around Brazil. Boas festas juninas!
Tag Archives: Festas Juninas
In our other lives, we are Brazilian music aficionados. As much time as we spent eating everything in sight while in Brazil, we were as dedicated to listening to as much live music as we could, including seeing the world-famous carnival parade twice: once at the technical rehearsal, and finally during the main event. We had the good fortune both times to see the eventual parade winners, the GRES Unidos de Vila Isabel (headlined, as always, by one of L’s favorite sambistas, Martinho da Vila). Vila’s 2013 samba-enredo (theme song) was the unrelentingly catchy “Água no feijão que chegou mais um;” sing along with the video below:
The song is a celebration of the simple life in the Brazilian countryside, and makes use of some creative wordplay to talk about the samba school’s job of making music using words that evoke farming, planting, and harvesting country crops (“Vila Isabel is going to plant some happiness tomorrow morning”). Once we had listened to the song on repeat 30 times, one particular verse caught our attention:
Bota água no feijão (“[He] throws water in the beans”)
Já tem lenha no fogão (“There’s already wood in the stove”)
Faz um bolo de fubá (“[He] makes a cornmeal cake”)
Question to us, then: what is a bolo de fubá, and given our self-professed love of Brazilian pastries and cakes, why have we not made one yet? A bolo de fubá is literally a cornmeal cake, but it is more than cornbread: using finely ground cornmeal (the finer than the better), you make a slightly sweet cake that is a ubiquitous accompaniment to breakfast or midday coffee. Bolo de fubá is also a popular food eaten in the Brazilian June Festivals, or Festas Juninas.
Everyone has their own take on a bolo de fubá. The most common variations are to make it a bolo de fubá cremosa (“creamy”) or bem cremosa (“super creamy”), usually by adding coconut or a creamy substitute like extra cheese or eggs. For beginners, try this recipe for a simple bolo from about.com. Denise Browning over at From Brazil to You has a good recipe for a bolo de fubá cremosa with coconut, complete with some reminiscing about some of her bolos of years past. But really, the good recipes will all be in Portuguese: try the one from Sabor Saudade (above), or this one from Tudo Gostoso (Everything Tasty).
And thanks to Vila Isabel for introducing us to a new treat: now we have a food to get addicted to as we get more and more addicted to your song. E está chegando o povo do samba!
June is a very important month in Brazil, especially due to the many mid-summer festivals called “Festas Juninas” – celebrating the three saints days of Anthony (June 13th – Santo Antônio), John (June 24th – São João) and Peter (June 29th – São Pedro). Festas Juninas are naturally filled with lots of merriment and delicious food. The events take place in large spaces with festive flags called an arraial, and there are elaborate dances called quadrilhas. The festivals are particularly popular in the Northeast of the country, and one rather humorous tradition is to dress up like a “caipira,” in a costume similar to what those in the US would think of as a “country bumpkin.” Though those outside of Brazil likely won’t be able to get the full Junina experience (though there are some celebrations in the US), there is certainly a lot of food to try. Corn based dishes are particularly popular including pamonha, bolo de fuba and Canjica (or Muzunga). Another popular Junina drink that I imagine would be a stateside hit is Quentão, mulled Cachaça. Peanuts also make an appearance in Festa Junina food, and a recipe for Doce de amendoim (Peanut Bars) can be found on the House of Pinheiro Blog.