Campo Grande has its seductive charms; low-rise buildings and a lazy, relaxed atmosphere. We immediately got to work practicing our non-existent, phrasebook-butchered Brazilian Portuguese on an unsuspecting and long-suffering bar staff. Having just acquired embarrassingly rudimentary Spanish, Portuguese was like gibberish. Brazilian Portuguese, despite having a slight overlap with Spanish, has an incomprehensible pronunciation to its words (frequently finishing with an “ow” sound).
We found a great bar that played recently released DVDs such as Never Back Down (think Rocky meets The Karate Kid) and where the friendly bargirls treated us to bitter, cold drinks which I would later discover was like the Argentine drink, mate (pronounced “mat-eh”). It was here in Campo Grande that I tried the Brazilian national dish for the first time; feijoada, stewed Brazilian black beans eaten with rice and greens; hearty and delicious. There’s plenty of debate as to the origins of feijoada; some say it was brought over by African slaves who made the best of the cheap cuts of meat. Others say that it’s similar to European dishes such as cassoulet which also uses fatty cuts of meat such as pork belly cooked with beans. I can see the similarity; every culture seems to have a version of the slow-cooked pot dish. Feijoada uses black turtle beans, salted pork cheap cuts, at least two types of smoked sausage, all cooked over a slow fire in a thick clay pot. The final dish has an unctuous finish, with beans and meat in a thick, dark broth; it’s delicious.