If you think that brigadeiro is just a delicious dessert from Brazil, you’d better think twice.
Traditionally made of condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter and chocolate sprinkles, brigadeiro is much more than the sum of its ingredients: it is a national sentiment.
Brazilians eat brigadeiro when the family gets together, when it’s time to celebrate, when best friends need to be cheered up, when lovers decide to surprise each other. No important event or festivity can be celebrated if brigadeiro is missing on the table.
My mother knew this well. She became a chocolatier to satisfy the sweet cravings of our small town and its 80,000 souls in the countryside of São Paulo.
When I was a child, I used to look at her making brigadeiro every day, and little did I know that I would be the one spreading the brigadeiro sentiment to the other side of the world.
After moving to San Francisco and marrying my American husband, I wanted to carry on the family tradition and show the pride for my country.
I was surprised to know that most Americans associated negative things to Brazil, like corruption scandals and terrible economy. I was determined to bring something positive to the picture, so I started this sweet business.
At first, it was challenging to make my new customers understand what a brigadeiro was.
A truffle? A fudge? A rounded cookie dough?
A brigadeiro is obvious to Brazilians, but so difficult to explain to foreigners. However, I soon realized that brigadeiro didn’t need a definition.
Once Americans put them in their mouths, they got enchanted. The special texture, the freshness of the ingredients, the delicate sweetness, it was nothing like they had ever tasted before.
They now realize that brigadeiro is a completely different food group. And their story is a special one too.
Brigadeiros are the curious result of a political campaign started in 1945. Shortly after the end of World War II, Brazil had to elect a new president, and one of the candidates was Eduardo Gomes, whose military rank was Brigadier (brigadeiro).
His most devoted voters decided to try to promote his campaign by organizing parties to raise funds and to give even more visibility to their candidate.
Instead of selling the usual electoral merchandising, they decided to make a candy to be sold in these meetings. It was created what was then known as “the candy of the Brigadeiro.”
And was sold during the campaign, trying to achieve votes through the palate of the electorate. Eduardo Gomes didn’t become the President of Brazil, but brigadeiros were such a success that they became a national dessert.
These sweet, creamy balls now represent Brazil all around the world. On one side, it’s a pleasure to see my American customers embrace and enjoy this Brazilian tradition.
On the other side, it’s even a bigger pleasure to give Brazilian expatriates in the US a reason to feel at home. Brigadeiro is a sentimental food, indeed.
Renata Stoica is founder of tinyB Chocolate – https://www.tinybchocolate.com/