At a time when the country is talking about gastronomy and its relation to culture, one project is rescuing and registering traditional culinary recipes, in photo, video and text. Journalist Patrícia Raposo, chief editor of Folha, and producer Maria Pessoa, from Blue Produções, just launched “Receitas Antigas de Pernambuco“, Old Recipes from Pernambuco (I replaced their offline site with their FB page).
In effect, it’s a database of 52 recipes, most of them unknown these days to the urban population, but which were regularly practiced decades ago in the Sertão, in the Agreste, and in the Pernambucan Zona da Mata regions. The idea of recording all the recipes came about when Patrícia and Maria went back to places from their childhood, where they would eat this plate or that one, but which no longer existed.
That was the case of the moqueca de totó (pictured above), a typical plate from Itamaracá. For those unfamiliar with it, totó is a crustacean from the mangroves that can only be found on nights with a full moon, when the tide is low enough. The natural difficulty of collecting them, together with the current easiness of getting ingredients from the sea and the mangroves led to disinterest in the item and, almost, the extinction of the copious recipe. The duo found Sônia Ferreira de Lima, resident of Vila Velha, on the Island, who is a cook that continues to make moqueca in her bar beside the Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church. There are those that even say the totó is an aphrodisiac.
Even the prosaic cream cookies (directly above) prepared with milk fat, obtained after it boils, no longer plays a part in compotes like they did in years long since past. A definitive change in habit interfered directly in culinary practices like this one, with the growth of the food industry. Because, after all, who wants to spend so much time making cookies? These days we have canned cream by the gallon at our fingertips and powdered milk that lasts a long time. The practicality of having so many ingredients on the supermarket shelves, however, is what is putting the original ways of cooking at risk.
Additional details: The project took one year to develop and was fully sponsered by Funcultura Independente. To find the recipes, the researchers visited maroon communities (quilombolas) and small towns in the Pernambucan Sertão.