On Christmas Day in Macaé, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thailine Kolb, her cousins, her mother, and her aunts gathered in the kitchen to celebrate. Also there were Thailine’s uncles and aunts. While the youngsters were running about, the adults were busy preparing a holiday meal while wearing aprons that matched each other. Mrs. Kolb recalls pouring salt on the plates and crushing pounds of yuca in order to prepare purê de mandioca, also known as yuca purée, which was one of her favourite holiday meals.
But today, almost ten years after she migrated to the United States, this purée has a deeper significance on her Thanksgiving table. It serves as a representation of her culture among the meals that are traditionally served by the family of her husband. Not only is it a simple alternative to mashed potatoes, but it also allows her to naturally blend the tastes of her country into the holiday meal, similar to how many other immigrants do the same thing.
Mrs. Kolb, who is 33 and from New Haven, Connecticut, said, “I prefer the flavour better.” When she first began preparing the meal for Thanksgiving with her then-family boyfriend’s five years ago, she would contact her mother in Brazil, Liomar dos Santos Paula Araujo, who instructed her over the phone on how to boil, mash, and make the yuca rich with butter and milk.
Yuca, which is the root of the cassava plant, is used in a lot of the food that is prepared in this nation. After the rough outer bark has been peeled away, the starchy white meat that lies beneath may be cooked, mashed, fried similar to how French fries are prepared, or even ground into flour.
According to Darna L. Dufour, an anthropology professor emerita who worked at the University of Colorado in Boulder before she retired, the crop most likely originated in Brazil and was a staple food for indigenous people who lived in the Amazon Basin and the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
According to Seth Garfield, a professor of Brazilian history at the University of Texas in Austin, Indigenous Brazilians taught the Portuguese in the 16th century how to properly prepare the root in a way that would keep it safe to eat.
In her celebrations of Thanksgiving with her family and friends in the United States, the food blogger Aline Shaw has included traditional foods that were “emotionally significant for everyone involved.” In Brazil, she and her mother taught her how to create a meal called purê de mandioca, which she considers to be her signature dish. She recalled how her mother would just peel and chop the yuca without being phased by the process of preparing it. She would use her hands to split apart portions of yuca, and then she would use just a little paring knife to remove the outer bark of the yuca.
Ms. Shaw, who is 38 years old and resides in Dallas, considered that job to be a labour of love. And as a graduate of a culinary school who is used to preparing dishes from a variety of cultures, she relishes the opportunity to do so at the dinner table. Around the time of Thanksgiving, she even posted a recipe that her mother had given her on her blog, Brazilian Kitchen Abroad, so that other people may try something different.