As the volume of Portuguese conversation rose as the supply of food quickly dwindled, the room flooded with the smells of traditional cuisines from Brazil and Portugal.
The Department of Spanish and Portuguese studies organized Friday the Tastes of Brazil and Portugal event in the Global and International Studies building. The event kicked off their weekly conversation hour by bringing in students that shared a common interest: food.
“Food is always a surefire way to attract visitors,” Rebecca Clay, graduate student in Hispanic linguistics, said.
Clay, who is fluent in English and Portuguese, said she learned best how to speak the language by immersing herself in it, whether that be visiting Rio de Janeiro or simply conversing with fellow students and professors.
At conversation hour, students gather to converse in Portuguese with one another to better their language speaking skills in a relaxed setting, Clay said. All are welcome to visit regardless of how progressed their Portuguese or Spanish speaking skills are.
“It’s a nice community to make friends and further your speaking skills,” she said.
Food and drink is a part of almost all social gatherings and meetings in Brazil, as it is in many countries. Brazilians will often drink small amounts of a strong coffee, cafezihno, throughout the day, so it can be found at many events. Because of this, the Portuguese conversation hour is called Portuguese Cafezinho.
“Coffee is very important to the Portuguese and Spanish," Clay said. "It’s a social thing."
Visitors also learned more about the history of Brazil and Portugal as they ate.
Many gathered around a black bean stew, feijoada, which is one of the most popular dishes in Brazil.
“Feijoada originated in the poor neighborhoods and slave ports of Brazil,” Joseph Pecorelli, graduate student in Portuguese and teacher at IU said.
Pecorelli said the ingredients are so simple that the dish eventually became very popular among all people of Brazil.
“The food from a country can tell a lot about the country’s history,” Pecorelli said.
The feijoada was also served with farofa, which is a popular bread topping. Pecorelli compared the use of farofa to ketchup in the United States.
“Everyone puts it on everything,” he said.
The feijoada with farofa was accompanied by bottles of Guarana, a popular soft drink in Brazil. Students were interested in the drink because it is made with the guarana fruit, which cannot typically be found in the United States.
To finish off the meal, there was also a table filled with desserts such as brigadeiro, a piece of chocolate mixed with condensed milk covered in sprinkles, which are very commonly served at events such as birthday parties for children.
“They’re dangerous because they’re so good that before you even realize it, you’ve eaten ten,” Clay said with a laugh.
The Department of Spanish and Portuguese studies will host a Portuguese and a Spanish conversation hour for students every week. The Spanish conversation hour will be held in the IMU Starbucks on Thursdays and the Portuguese on Fridays.