Today’s post is mostly a rant from someone who has eaten too many carrots and little else for a week, but I’ve traveled six continents and in only two places did I go hungry—Brazil and North Korea.
North Korea has a failed authoritarian central planned economy. It’s tragic for the people living there, but at least I understand the situation and knew to prepare for difficulty finding food.
Brazil has no economic reasons why it shouldn’t have food available, but it doesn’t, at least if you don’t eat meat. Actually, even if you do eat meat. I may be extrapolating too far from the situation on the island of Fernando de Naronha, but a week of hunger will do that to you.
Most restaurants serve only meat dishes. A couple have maybe a salad or vegetable risotto option. Actually, the vegetable risotto option at the one restaurant I liked here wasn’t available the three times I went. Several places had buffet options with beans but, as you’d expect, the beans were all cooked with meat.
The stores didn’t even have a can of beans without meat. How can a store not have a can of beans? What they call whole wheat bread, if I understand the word “integral,” is white bread. The pasta I had at restaurants is white pasta. I don’t avoid wheat like some people, but I try to avoid food with fiber removed.
The stores also have almost no fresh fruit and vegetables. The vegetables they have are mealy. The best option I could find was carrots, which don’t taste that good here especially after you’ve had a dozen, but they seem the healthiest option I could find. People told me they have to fly food here if they want it fresh, it’s too expensive to bring fresh fruits and vegetables, but that makes no sense. They have frozen and canned meat, presumably brought by boat, so why not frozen and canned vegetables and beans?
Luckily I brought a bag of oats I could eat for breakfast, but oats, carrots, white pasta, and white rice do not make for a healthy diet. They make for someone never planning to visit this place again.
On the boat ride yesterday to view the island, people ate bags of cookies at 9am. I’m sorry, they weren’t just eating cookies, they were feeding them to their kids then. By about 11am, after snorkeling, nearly everyone started snacking on Pringles, beer, soda, and bags of stuff like chips, which is all basically sugar. Not a single person on the tour was fit, or even close. I have no problem with people choosing to live and eat how they want, that’s their business, but I don’t have to like a culture that gives no alternatives. I’m not trying to change them. I just don’t want to live that way.
Every other place in the world I’ve been so far except North Korea, I could at least cobble together some non-meat options into something I could live on. Here, the only other options were basically sugar—white rice, white bread, mealy fruit, and junk food. Even people who eat meat can’t get a few healthy vegetables on the side. The only saving grace I saw was the dried beans in bags at the store, but my hotel didn’t have a way to cook them.
If I had to come again, I could prepare by bringing food with me, but it’s easier not to come. It’s a big world and I can’t visit everywhere, so why visit a junk food culture?
Meanwhile, the island has extremely poor internet, which I figure isn’t a problem for the rest of Brazil. Downloading my email takes about two hours when it works, which is a couple times a day that you can’t predict. I could live with that, except that the hotel claimed to have wifi. I guess technically it does, but the whole island doesn’t connect to the rest of the world. I enjoy being disconnected, and I’ve gone without internet for two-week periods four or five times, which is more than most people I know. For North Korea, I knew to prepare to have no internet, like I could prepare to have poor food. Here I ended up missing a couple meetings I could have planned around had I known.
Posting on my blog can also take hours of clicking to post until it finally connects. I can do other things while periodically clicking, but I have to be around. It’s a SIDCHA.
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