Sheila Thomson's Guide to Brazilian Recipes and Culture

Sheila ThomsonMaria-Brazil.org has been a popular online destination for Brazilian cooking and culture for 15 years.  We interviewed site creator and Brazilian culture expert Sheila Thomson about the site and what inspired her to create it.

 


1. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Brazil, but spent most of my life traveling and living in the U.S. and other countries. I was a Portuguese instructor at Harvard University in the 1980s and for five years in the 1990s created radio segments about Brazil for WCBE, public radio in Columbus, OH. I retired from Florida International University in Miami in 2005 and, as a parting gift, donated my entire collection of Brazilian materials (crafts, my library, including all my gorgeous regional cuisine cookbooks, CDs, DVDs, primitive paintings and woodcuts) to Special Collections at the Library there. It’s now the Sheila Thomson Collection of Brazilian Culture.

2. What was the inspiration behind creating Maria-Brazil.org?

I was living in Columbus, OH doing radio in 1995 when I realized that the Internet was going to be the way to communicate and teach about Brazil to an audience around the world. I had collected a lot of materials in Brazil over the years and decided to use them to start a site about Brazilian popular culture.

3. What can readers find on Maria-Brazil.org?

A discussion of cross-cultural issues such as doing business in Brazil, Brazilian eating habits, etc; a cookbook with a few favorite recipes, a practical guide to foods, fruits (thousands of them!!), vegetables, and food shopping in Brazil with lots and lots of photographs (street markets, markets, etc.); a guide to different musical styles and genres, popular dances and all types of crafts, with shopping tips; a guide to a few spectacular places I visited over the years that people rarely see such as the thousands-of-years-old cave paintings of the Serra da Capivara National Park; and a special guide to Rio called Maria’s Little Black Book, chockfull with tips and secret/favorite addresses for almost everything…

4. If you could summarize Brazilian cooking into one quote, what would it be?

Along with French and Chinese, one of the greatest cuisines in the world. You need to go there! Have a muqueca de peixe and acaraje in Bahia, a feijoada in Rio, try the fish and the fruit of the Amazon forest, eat a barbecue in the South…and so on and so on.
 

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