Friday, April 18, 2014

Sharing traditions from Brazilian gardens to Kalamazoo tables

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave
April 17, 2014

A two-year-old company using 400-year-old recipes has found its niche among food lovers.  Silvana Quadros Russell, founder of Brazilian Oven tells Zinta Aistars the story of the cheese buns of her native Brazil that Americans are coming to love.

Silvana making cheese bread (Photo by Erik Holladay)
They may be new to Kalamazoo (Michigan), but the delicious little cheese buns, known as pão de queijo in Brazil, have been on kitchen tables in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Colombia since the 18th century. Silvana Quadros Russell, founder of Brazilian Oven, LLC, has been enjoying the cheese buns of her native land since she was a child.

"My father grew the cassava plant in our garden in San Paulo," says Russell. Cassava plants, also known as the yucca or mandioca plant, are used to make the tapioca flour from which the buns are baked, known for their crusty outsides and the chewy, moist insides. "He’d bring in the cassava root from the garden, peel, and eat. It was organic before anyone called anything organic. We ate cassava like people here eat potato."

Russell was born in Brazil, but came to the United States almost 19 years ago with her American-born husband, whom she met in Brazil, where she had worked in public relations. Here, feeling the language barrier kept her out of the profession for which she was trained, Russell did not resume work in public relations, but stayed at home to raise the couple’s two children, a daughter and son. 

"I studied English, but it was British English." Russell laughs. 

Instead, her interests developed along with her nostalgia for her favorite foods back in Brazil.

"After moving here and becoming a stay-at-home mom, I decided to embrace the cooking challenge," she says. "With no culinary training, I started to call my mother and friends in Brazil to ask for recipes. I used to call the 1-800 numbers on the packages of flour, sugar, oil and everything I could get a hold of it. At first, I would tell them that I liked their products. Then, I asked for recipes. While my baby was sleeping I was very busy on the phone."

Russell got busy experimenting with her growing collection of recipes. The more time she spent in the kitchen, the more skilled she became. The compliments from impressed friends started to pour in as she brought treats to parties and gatherings.

"There were lots of trials and errors, but ..."


No comments:

Post a Comment