The Salt
1:08 pm
Sat July 5, 2014

Want To Eat Brazilian Food At The World Cup? Please Step Outside

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 10:53 am

The stadiums of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are all different, constructed to reflect the region. Natal's arena has a wavy beach-dune style, while the stadium in Manaus looks like a woven basket.

Inside those stadiums, however, you'd never know you're in Brazil. Budweiser is an official beer seller, and Coke has the soda market cornered. Other menu items include hot dogs, cheeseburgers and turkey sandwiches. It's almost impossible to find any Brazilian fare on the menu.

FIFA puts on the World Cup and is often criticized for lavishness and the high cost of staging the games, not to mention what's seen as its unwillingness to compromise, especially when protecting sponsors. But then FIFA met Rita Santos and her passion.

On any given day, she and her friends are in a lovely part of Salvador called the Pelourinho, making the popular street food, acaraje. She uses a large spoon to mash up beans, onions and salt to create a dough ball that gets deep-fried. Then it's sliced in half, slathered with a spicy pepper sauce and cashew paste and topped with shrimp.

Acaraje was first brought to Brazil centuries ago by African slaves. Today it's almost exclusively made by women known as baianas, who wear flowing, all-white cotton dresses and headscarves.

For 60 years, the baianas sold acaraje at the old soccer stadium. So when FIFA told the women they couldn't sell acaraje within a mile of the new World Cup arena on game days, that didn't go over so well. Santos blames the Brazilian government for not standing up to FIFA.

"They left it open for them to do what they wanted, for them to be able to take over Brazil and do whatever they thought should be done," Santos says.

So the baianas took control and protested in the streets. Tens of thousands of people signed an online petition. FIFA, which is not known for compromise, eventually backed down and allowed the baianas to sell acaraje in the "fan zone" outside Salvador's stadium.

"We showed that ... we are strong, and that there are other battles we can fight and win as well," she says.

Other World Cup cities in Brazil were emboldened by the victory. In Recife, local leaders got FIFA to allow the sale of their delicacy, a flat pancake called tapioca. Elias Sampaio, an economist who serves on the state budget commission, says the World Cup should showcase more local culture.

"It would be better than the situation now ... if all our food in the arena would be our food, our drinking, it would be very good," Sampaio says.

And for Rita Santos, this may be the most important outcome of her fight with FIFA: that future host countries will speak up. She'll be watching to see what happens in Russia at the 2018 World Cup.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

In Brazil today, the city of Salvador will host its final World Cup game as Costa Rica takes on the Netherlands. Fans attending the match can get an unusual treat, a local delicacy is for sale just outside the stadium. The story of how that came to be made well be more remarkable than the games outcome. NPR's Russell Lewis reports on a group of Brazilian women who took on the world's biggest soccer governing body and won.

RUSSEL LEWIS, BYLINE: On game day, Brazil's 12 World Cup stadiums are electric.

(SOUNDBITE OF WORLD CUP)

LEWIS: The stadiums are all different, constructed to reflect the region. Natal’s arena has a wavy, beach-dune style. The stadium in Manaus looks like a woven basket, but inside you'd never know you're in Brazil. Budweiser is an official beer seller. Coke's got the soda market cornered. Other menu items include hot dogs, cheeseburgers and turkey sandwiches. It's almost impossible to find any Brazilian fare on the menu. FIFA puts on the World Cup. It's often criticized for its lavishness and high costs to stage the games - not to mention what's seen as its unwillingness to compromise, especially when protecting sponsors.

But then FIFA met Rita Santos and her passion. On any given day, she and her friends are here in this lovely part of Salvador called the Pelhourinho making the popular street food acaraje. She uses a large spoon to mash up beans, onions and salt to create a dough ball which is deep-fried. It's then sliced in half, slathered with a spicy pepper sauce and cashew paste and topped with shrimp. Acaraje was first brought to Brazil centuries ago by African slaves. Today, it's almost exclusively made by women notice by baianas who wear flowing, all-white cotton dresses and headscarves. For 60 years, the baianas sold acaraje at the old soccer stadium. So when FIFA told the women they couldn't sell acaraje within a mile of the new World Cup arena on game days, that didn't go over so well. Santos blames the Brazilian government for not standing up to FIFA.

RITA SANTOS: (Through translator) So they left it open for them to do what they wanted, for them to be able to take over Brazil and do whatever they thought should be done.

LEWIS: So the bainanas took control. They protested in the streets. Tens of thousands of people signed an online petition. FIFA, which is not known for compromise, eventually backed down. The organization allowed the baianas to sell acaraje in the fan-zone outside Salvador Stadium.

SANTOS: (Through translator) We showed that as black women, Baianas de acaraje, we are strong and that there are other battles we can fight and win as well.

LEWIS: Other World Cup cities in Brazil were emboldened by the victory. In Recife, local leaders got FIFA to allow the sale of their delicacy, a flat-pancake called tapioca. Elias Sampaio is an economist and serves on the state budget commission. He says the World Cup should showcase more local culture.

ELIAS SAMPAIO: I think it would be better - better than the situation now. If all of food in the arena would be our food our drinking, it would be very good.

LEWIS: And for Rita Santos, this may be the most important outcome of her fight with FIFA -that future host countries will speak up. She'll be watching to see what happens in Russia the 2018 World Cup. Russia Lewis, NPR News, Salvador, Brazil.

KEITH: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.