Synopsis: Bourdain travels to Brazil just ahead of the World Cup, before an inundation of tourists overwhelms the country. In Bahia he finds an epicenter of the Brazilian culture one doesn’t get in Rio and other, more touristy parts of the country—a culture built on a legacy of slavery and suffering, a legacy that also brought the cultures of faraway Africa to bear on local cuisine and arts. Throwing back one too many a caipirinha, Bourdain marvels at a city where people appear to have a taste for all that’s enjoyable in life.

Bourdain’s Brazilian bacchanal

“What’s magical about this cocktail is the first taste. It’s like, I don’t know, man. It’s a little too something. Then, like, that second sip, it’s like, Oh, that’s kinda good. Then the third sip, it’s like, Where are my pants?”

  • “This is Salvador da Bahia, city of 3 million people, first capital of Brazil. The wellspring for everything African and spicy, where things seem to just sway and move constantly. It’s a place where everybody is sexy, where even the ugly people are hot. Unsurprisingly, this is where artists come from. African spiritualism, occult magic, Candomblé, capoeira. And caipirinhas. Did I mention caipirinhas?”
  • “Fortunately, food in these parts tends to be, shall we say, hearty. For instance, a delightful meal of fried meat with plenty of absorbent starch product like farofa, the perfect accompaniment to many, many caipirinhas.”
  • “The caipirinha, man. This indispensable icon of Brazilian beach culture is known to start with fresh lime, muddle and mash with more lime juice, sugar, ice, the magic ingredient, cachaça—that’s basically the distilled liquor of the sugarcane—shaken, not stirred, and you’ve got yourself one of the world’s truly great cocktails. The utility beverage good for any time of day or any social occasion. Very satisfying.”
  • “If there’s anything better than cheese, it’s semi-melted cheese. And what’s the best part of French onion soup? It’s the little burned bits piece of cheese around the edge.”

“It’s a tough town for vegetarians.”

  • “No matter what, people should come. Even people who are afraid to travel, who say, Oh, well, but I hear… ”
  • “Here you can frolic in a Speedo and feel pretty good about myself. They let it all hang out here.”
  • “I love nature and caipirinha. Oh, what’s going on here? Caipirinha. Please. Sweet! This alone is an argument for the greatness of this country.”
  • [On crab] “You know, any time you get your Chinese, your Brazilians, and your Italians all agreeing on something, it’s pretty clear it’s a really good idea. Everybody agrees that this complicated-looking creature with all those troublesome shells is worth the work. So you tear off the little limbs. We’ll get to you a little later, my friends. Rip out the tail. These are the lungs—you don’t want them. Now, you’ve got all this nice fat in there. Oh, yeah. Now we’re getting to the claw. Look at that. Let’s poke him out of there. Oh, yeah. This should do—that little melon of goodness. Like a celestial nibble.”
  • [Still on crab] “When people started demanding boneless stuff, like chicken without a bone or crab meat without the actual crab or lazy lobster, that was the beginning of the erosion of our society as we know it. If you’re not willing to work for a payoff like this, how do you expect us to, like, fight Al-Qaida. If you can’t suck the meat out of a crab? A character builder and delicious.”  

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A culture built on a legacy of slavery  

“All the things that we look at as Brazilian, from the outside looking in—the cuisine, samba—all of these things are very African in origin.”

  • “It is useful to know that of over 12 million Africans dragged, ripped, and kidnapped from their homelands, nearly 5 million ended up in Brazil, 1.5 million of them in Bahia alone. Pelourinho became the locus of a vast infrastructure of plantations and the slave trade that powered them, making this city in northeastern Brazil the most opulent in the new world. Pelourinho, it’s worth pointing out, gets its name from the whipping post.”
  • “When millions of Africans were taken by force to Brazil, the traditions, the musical roots they had, instruments they played, their gods and their food came with them. In the days of slavery, you would hide that stuff, whether it was your religion or your self- defense skills.”
  • “In Bahia you find yourself in the heart of the heart of Brazil, where the magic comes from. If you want to get there, just follow the sound of the drums.”

[On the poisonous blowfish at Ana Souza Marves] “Nice and spicy. I can’t feel my legs. Is that a bad thing?”

Funny man

  • “I don’t like piña coladas, but I like walking in the rain. I like wandering through markets as much as the next guy, but what I really like are neurotoxins.”
  • “Salvador is one of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup. A huge stadium has recently been completed, but a lot of people are worried, concerned if Brazil is ready. I’ve been told thousands of prostitutes are studying tourist-appropriate languages in preparation, so probably a lot of people are going to get laid, a lot of people are going to get robbed, a lot of people are going to get laid and robbed.”