Saturday night I had dinner with Eduardo Maya and Eulália Araujo, the visionary founders of an annual culinary contest to find the very best Brazilian bar food, called Comida di Buteco. What started off as a culinary contest 9 years ago is now an amazing cultural movement celebrating Brazil's botequims - the popular name for the authentic Brazilian pub - and the colorful food served with beer or cachaça. If Spain has the tapas, Brazil has the petiscos or tira-gostos as they are called. It all started in Belo Horizonte, a city known as the bar capital of the country and is now spreading to other cities.
Eduardo Maya is a charismatic guy and an enthusiastic advocate for elevating Brazilian bar gastronomy - often considered low cuisine - to the respectful place it deserves in the country's food culture. He also talks passionately about how this movement has exponentially improved the lives of dozens of families who own these bars and given them a sense of affiliation beyond what he had initially envisioned.
To give of an idea of how popular this movement is becoming, in the 2007 edition, 130,000 people voted for their favorite petiscos in 40 selected bars and the final event, which closes off the month-long Comida di Buteco, gathered over 500,000 people in a week-end of music and the best Brazilian bar food. It ends with an awards ceremony.
Click here to read an article that ran on The New York Times on the Comida di Buteco movement.
Another great example of how certain cultural movements have the powerful force of mobilizing people behind a cause.