I was born in Belo Horizonte (in English it is “beautiful horizon”), a city of Brazil that has approximately 2 million people living there. When I say that to people here in Europe, everybody says it’s a big city. Yes, it’s big but not that big when we talk about Brazil. Anyway, it’s the capital of our beautiful state, Minas Gerais. I like the city, but there’s nothing so special there to me… And it’s not that easy to be a vegan girl there too. Well, it’s getting better, but still far way from perfect.
Vegetarianim/veganism is not that popular in Brazil yet. I say “popular” not meaning a fashion thing, an option that people find to be more healthy. It’s just not easy to meet vegetarian/vegan people or find food or products to buy at supermarkets. I thing the worst thing is still going out to eat. There are just a few options and most of them just open during the day. The best thing to do at night is going to some friend’s house and cook some stuff there (that’s what we used to do almost every weekend!). And when we go out and try to ask about the ingredients it’s a nightmare. People just don’t understand why you want to know it or why you (these freak people) don’t eat meat, cheese and eggs. I will not write today about the most common questions and comments we are used to listen to in this post (this deserves another post!) but I have to tell you the weirdest story about questioning the ingredients happened to us, me and my husband, last year when we decided to call the delivery service of a big pizzeria. We just asked about the ingredients because in Brazil they (many times) use eggs or milk. And we got this answer: “Sorry, we can’t tell you the ingredients of our pizza because it’s a secret recipe.” What? ? ? As far as I know there are not a lot of recipes of pizza. It’s not the secret recipe of Mr. Krabs’s popular Krabby Patty burgers (yes, I do watch SpongeBob SquarePants)! But the most used thing people do to us is to lie or just say what they think it could be in the food. They say that there’s no milk or eggs or meat. So we had to start to say we’re allergic to these products to make them tell the truth (or to be afraid of lie I suppose) and this is so sad.
But, as I said before, things are getting better. There’s a fancy area in the town called Savassi and there we can find good places to eat. The first awesome initiative I saw there was in a fast-food place that sells Arabic food (falafel, sfiha, hummus, baba ghannouj, etc). We used to go there to eat falafel and sometimes the manager was there and talked to us. We (and other friends that use to go there) always asked for more vegetarian/vegan options and we tried to explain him how was the vegan diet. Well, one day we saw that the place was closed. We just got in panic. But it was just a refurbishment. When they reopened we were there and we had a great surprise: they did a new menu with more vegan options and they have written “vegetarian” and/or “vegan” right by certain products. Does it seems stupid and natural to you? I have to say that in Brazil most of the places don’t do that. So it was like a victory to us, vegan people from Belo Horizonte.
Even about fast-food, the best option it’s called Piper Rubra. They serve a great salad buffet and have also burgers (try the pumpkin with curry one, it’s amazing), pizzas and falafel balls.
There’s just one restaurant I really like. It’s not the only vegetarian option, but it’s the best for sure. It’s a thai food restaurant, a pay by kilo self-service. Really, really awesome. I miss going there. This is probably one of the few places I miss in Belo Horizonte.
That’s all about my beautiful city for now!
You can find some places contact (in Portuguese) at Gato Negro website.
Belo Horizonte view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafafonte
Piper Rubra pizza: http://www.gato-negro.org