Coffee Comes to Brazil

Coffee was first brought to the Americas by French colonists in the early eighteenth century. According to legend, the emperor of Brazil dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Francisco de Mello Palheta to obtain seeds of the precious crop from the governor of French Guiana, sending him to the country under the pretext of mediating a border dispute. When the governor refused de Mello's request for seeds, the colonel turned his attentions to the governor's wife, who seems to have launched the entire Brazilian coffee industry by slipping him a few seedlings in a bouquet. Three hundred years later, Brazil produces one-third of the world's coffee.

—Paula Kepos parasitic: feeding off another organism protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet calorie: unit of food energy malnutrition: chronic lack of sufficient nutrients to maintain health anemia: low level of red blood cells in the blood heart disease: any disorder of the heart or its blood supply, including heart attack, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease hypertension: high blood pressure obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height herbal: related to plants immune system: the set of organs and cells, including white blood cells, that protect the body from infection diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten

Some of the delicacies found on South American menus are toasted fire ants from Columbia, called hormiga, and these barbecued guinea pigs, or cuy, from Ecuador. [Photograph by Owen Franken. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

typically includes a young pig or goat (as well as chicken, guinea pig, tamales, potatoes, and corn) cooked under layers of hot stones, leaves, and herbs. Clambakes are popular in Chile.

Quinoa, the seed of the Chenopodium, or goosefoot plant, has been a staple food of millions of native inhabitants, but production declined for centuries after the Spanish conquest in the 1500s. It is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of its cooking characteristics. It became a minor crop due to its decline, and at times it has been grown only by peasants in remote areas for local consumption. In Peru, Chile and Bolivia, quinoa is widely cultivated for its nutritious seeds, which are used in creating various soups and bread, and it is also fermented with millet to make a beer-like beverage. A sweetened concoction of quinoa is used medicinally.

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