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Opinion

A third way to look at food

Brazil's culinary staples blend flavors from Europe, Africa

Brazil's culinary staples blend flavors from Europe, Africa and American Indian.

For a taste of the classics, visit Aprazivel (Rue Aprazivel, 62, aprazivel.com.br) in Santa Teresa, perched on a hill with tables set in treehouses. Get the signature grilled palm heart, as well as the Moquequinha do Rio, a fish stew cooked in vegetable gravy and coconut milk.

You can't visit Brazil without sampling feijoada (pictured), a Portuguese slow-cooked stew, heavy with beans and typically made with pork and beef. One place to enjoy the soul food is Casa da Feijoada (Rue Prudente de Moraes, 10, cozinhatipica.com.br), just make sure you bring a friend -- its hefty dishes are usually shared.

Another staple, Rio Scenarium (Rue do Lavradio, 20, rioscenarium.art.br) serves grilled meats and has a dance floor where locals samba.

If you're skipping the classics, Kraft Cafe (Rue Anibal de Mendonca, 55, facebook.com/kraftcafebrasil) just opened in the fashionable Ipanema neighborhood, serving locally roasted Brazilian coffee along with raw and vegan desserts.

Photo Credit: iStock

I’m a Vegemite-eating, lamb chop-munching Australian-born mom who has lived in the United States for six years, and I love so much about living here. Yet I don’t love the state of American food.

Before you roll your eyes, I’m not proposing the same snobbish gourmet gentrification that has happened Down Under. Australia’s obsession with cooking shows such as “My Kitchen Rules” and “Masterchef” has turned every citizen into an impossible-to-please insta-judge. Previously sane home cooks are now preparing mushroom custard and liquid gnocchi. I would not wish this fate on my vowel-impaired friends here.

The 1 percent climbs toward the vertiginous peak of Asian fusions and edible soils and foams. Sadly, the 99 percent often struggles to raise its forks because of the weight of stodgy calories.

So, I’ve come up with a few rules to help avoid the more calorific tendencies that the dear folks living in the land of the free otherwise embrace.

Start with something good. Before you coat a pretzel in chocolate, ask yourself: Is there not something, anything more deserving of that thick, delicious coating? Pretzels are just dried, tasteless bits of old bread — an inappropriate starting point. Also, cookie dough ice cream: It’s a half-baked idea, literally, so please stop it.

Stay in your lane. Ramen burgers, rainbow bagels and cronuts are Frankenfoods and should enjoy the same fate as the fictional hybrid monster. Bacon doughnuts, chili cheese cupcakes and banana split tacos: Are you sweet or are you savory? Decide. Stop bastardizing taste for the sake of novelty mash-ups.

Have respect for nature. Egg beaters. Why divorce the nutritious yolk from an egg and sell just the whites? Have some regard for the egg, nature’s perfect protein, and the chicken that laid it. Coffee creamer. Why not just tip correction fluid into your coffee? This is a travesty. Use milk or drink your coffee black.

All fat matters. Milk seems to be the only food in which the fat content gets counted. Sure, you can load up on cheese-crust pizza, deep-fried Oreos, sides of bacon and home fries, blue cheese dressing and fried dough at the fair, but make sure you’ve got 2 percent milk in the refrigerator.

Demand to eat at the grown-ups table. Before we start worshiping at the altar of peanut butter and jelly, America needs to put on its big girl trousers and eat adult food. Not party treats intended for a child’s birthday. That means no more mac and cheese, grilled cheese, cupcakes or chocolate chip cookies. Step away from that bowl of frosting that you call breakfast. Try a simple dinner of meat and three veggies; and no, fries do not count as a vegetable. Put a little authentic comfort back into comfort food.

Stop making me choose between a burger or a salad at every restaurant. It’s a hackneyed Mars or Venus bifurcation. There has to be a third way.

Heck, I’ll just settle for a grilled vegetable wrap — perhaps with a drizzle of balsamic jus and some crumbled feta.

Caroline Jumpertz is a Brooklyn- based writer.

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