how to eat well and decolonize your palate

how to eat well and decolonize your palate

Recipes

“Many people think that eating healthy means cutting out sugar, for example, entering a world of food restrictions and terrorism”, says Juliana Gomes, from Santa Catarina, from the blog “Comida Saudável Pra Todos”. With her work, she aims to demystify food and show that eating is a collective process.

“There’s no such thing as eating your organic kale and it’s okay. No. The pesticide is in our water. It's not a matter of changing small habits. Either we understand that we are all in this together, that there are huge structural issues there, or we don’t change anything,” she says.

It is common for vegan, organic food or any type of diet considered healthy to be seen as elitist and, sometimes, even boring. Part of Juliana's work is also to show that it is possible to eat well for little money.

Juliana introduces herself as “a native of Santa Catarina who wants to tell stories beyond European-influenced cuisine. Stories that refer to corn, cassava flour and jabuticaba”.

Decolonizing the dish

With direct Portuguese ancestry, Juliana brings with her a very Brazilian ideal: decolonizing our food, giving protagonism to foods from our land.

“I started to find it strange that many of my food references, my affective memories, are of foods associated with German immigrants, even though I don't have any German descendants in my family. Then I started to get bothered by the fact that everyone thought that plant-based cuisine was something different, far from our food culture. When we say, ‘take the cow's milk out of hominy and only use coconut milk', people think we are destroying Brazilian food culture. But where did this cow's milk in hominy come from? What does it represent? There were no cows here before the Portuguese invaded.”

healthy lunch with grains, vegetables and legumes

For her, what we call “Brazilian cuisine” is often a form of violence towards indigenous peoples and the cultures of African peoples, who came to Brazil as slaves. “Our food basically tells one story: the European one. And everything that is not from outside is not exalted. Our corn is food for the poor. Acarajé is “heretic” food. Native fruits such as butiá and jabuticaba are at risk of extinction while supermarkets from North to South always sell apples.”

For Juliana, the first thing we need to do is “stop eating hamburgers”, she says, laughing. “I can’t bear to see hamburgers, pizzerias and temakerias opening on every corner of this country. I can't stand seeing bread erasing the tapioca and couscous from our breakfast. I can’t stand seeing the consumption of beans, rice and cassava flour fall every year.”

For her, we need to know what is native, value it, order this food from vendors, ask restaurants to prioritize what is ours. “When we don’t know and value what is ours, it becomes even easier for ruralists to deforest everything and transform the Atlantic Forest, the Cerrado and the Amazon into soybean plantations and cattle ranching.”

lying in a hammock, holding a cassava

Where can we start?

“Questioning everything. Why do you eat what's on your plate and what's behind this food? Furthermore, it is also important to mobilize politically and not just focus on individual changes. Talk to more people about this subject, sign petitions, denounce abusive food advertising, understand what is happening, get informed, get together in collectives, associations, buy food from small farmers, fight so that cattle kings and companies of soft drinks will start paying taxes.”

Many people may not be able to understand what the colonization of our cuisine and even our eating habits is, but Juliana explains: “We are not a free country. We were a colony of Portugal and our economic model is dependent capitalism. I'll explain better. Our history, over the last 500 years, is the history of a country held hostage by others. And, even though we have ‘independence', the cultural influence of Europe, and then the United States, is still very strong here. Do you know what Paulo Freire says, that if we don't have a liberating education, the oppressed will want to be the oppressor? Then. We still want to be Europe.”

She gives an example: “we praise their intellectuals, products, habits, foods (cheese, cream, eggs, sugar, meat from farmed animals). Tomatoes and potatoes, ingredients native to Latin America, became ‘Italian tomatoes' and ‘English potatoes'. The pepper we use most in cooking is black pepper. And today every pesticide banned in Europe, often produced by European companies, is dumped here, as someone needs to keep buying it. It’s as if we were the toxic dump of the world.”

pan and ready food, organic

Healthy food for everyone – healthy eating is a process

“Nothing is more urgent than drastically reducing or stopping the consumption of foods of animal origin. As I explained in episode 9 of my podcast, Jornal do Veneno, it's not a question of being friends with animals, it's the only chance for us to see a future. We need to be realistic! It was this industrial model of raising pigs, cattle and chickens, associated with deforestation, that brought us the coronavirus, which will bring us more future diseases, such as other pandemics and resistance to antibiotics”.

“This is what accelerates climate change, which will dry up our water, leaving us all poisoned by pesticides. Most of the pesticides do not go to lettuce, but to soybeans that will become feed for this huge number of animals. Brazil alone has 37 million pigs confined at the moment. And the pig is the perfect intermediate host for viruses like corona to mutate and reach humans. We have no choice.”

Juliana is aware that these changes in the lifestyle of a population do not happen overnight. Even for her, the process took time. Before adopting veganism, she says that she was the person who seasoned the meat on the barbecue, who picked the sausage on the plate. To become who he is today, it took a long way – and it wasn't just because of his taste.

“It was a process, several steps. It started with feminism, which made us question the madness of living on diets. Then politicization itself, which has always led me to develop a critical eye for the capitalist system, the means of production of large companies, how their advertising works, what is behind what we eat, the fact that European colonization influences so much our eating habits to this day. Then came vegetarianism and unemployment, which led me to greatly reduce my spending on food. Veganism was a consequence of all of this. Rethinking and questioning food, like everything in life, has no end, right? I continue on this path.”

juliana carrying a basket of cassava, organic food

How Comida Saudável Para Todos came about

Juliana has a degree in journalism, which helped her understand needs and know how to express herself and reach more and more people. “Like everyone else, I have always put my personal experiences into my work. But Comida Saudável para Todos emerged from a personal need. I was looking for vegetarian, accessible and natural recipes (without the fit thing about healing) and I couldn’t find any.”

“I later discovered that the information I was looking for about agribusiness, large industry and marketing is not easy to find. The content about ‘healthy eating' produced on social media, newspapers, magazines, is very bad in general. They do not awaken food autonomy, they individualize the issue of food as if it were just a matter of making better choices”.

For many people, veganism is a distant idea linked to expensive products, fancy recipes and dishes that seem to be missing something. Juliana's job is to show that it is possible to eat delicious and healthy food for little money. And she's not the only one creating this type of material.

“There are already many peripheral and wonderful people who do this besides me too. I see the beginning of a change in this thinking. It's easier. Many movements, collectives, activist groups for other causes are already beginning to see vegans as allies. This is very important. Veganism needs to be alongside the Landless Movement, the agroecology movements. And don’t deify big brands that launch very expensive packaged lies in the vegan version”, says the owner of Comida saúde para todos.

organic dish with beans flour vegetables

The predominant eating model today is greatly influenced by media products and fad diets and ends up including several industrialized ones. And that may be tasty, but it is far from healthy. On the blog, Juliana shows that it is possible to make great recipes, paying little. She teaches recipes for up to R$10 that are an absolute hit among her audience. We asked her to select some that she liked best. She separated two:

CORN PANCAKE (AREPA) – R$ 1.21
MANDIOCA AREPAS – R$ 2.34

Want a bonus? We tried this recipe here, which is DIVINE!

HUMBLE EGGPLANT PATE – R$ 1.44

Want more recipes? Go to the blog

eggplant pate with bread
“The positive feedback from the public on revenue is very large. People who say they started to question everything, became vegan, never went to the supermarket the same way again, bought from small producers, gave up crazy diets… There are many wonderful testimonials every day and that's what keeps me going, despite suffering threats, millions of criticisms, insults, and the immense emotional exhaustion of this work”, he says, saying that he receives comments both on the blog and on Instagram and other social networks. It's a change that came from her and started to affect several people.

She says that the tips that people like most are simpler, ranging from how to speed up the preparation of ingredients to seasoning the food. “Like how to make bean broth, how to make soup without a hospital taste and how to decipher the label of a food product…”

Juliana sitting, holding food

The future of Healthy Food for All

Due to the pandemic, Juliana's schedule is closed, but that doesn't mean she's stopped. There is the possibility of running an online course, but there are still no dates for this to happen.

Anyone who wants to help the project can apply for recurring financing on Catarse. “It’s the only way to maintain Healthy Food for All. I do not enter into commercial partnerships with companies. Supporters donate from R$7 every month and, in addition to financing my work, they participate in prize draws and receive a monthly newsletter with exclusive and commented tips on films, podcasts, books, news.”

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