Are you sure your caipirinha is legal?
JAMES PEARCE - One of the great cultural differences between Canadian and Brazilian societies is how the two cultures view the question of obeying laws and regulations.
When talking about cultural differences there is always the danger of speaking in stereotypes, but anyone who knows both cultures know there is a difference between them in this regard. When I used to teach English at a language school in Vancouver I often asked students what they found most surprising about Canadian culture when they first arrived.
One Brazilian student told me that she was astounded to see groups of pedestrians in downtown Vancouver waiting patiently for the pedestrian signal to turn green even though there were no cars passing along the street. She said, "That would never, ever happen in Brazil." For me, an expat from Vancouver currently living in Fortaleza, the Brazilian casualness with obeying the law, particularly traffic laws, has taken some getting used to - although I can now turn left from the right lane with the best of them!
Someone once mentioned to me that although Brazil has laws and regulations that cover every possible subject and situation, it's up in the air whether anyone will pay attention to them. This post from my blog Flavors of Brazil (Sabores do Brasil) discusses one such regulation. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, in 2008, published a set of guidelines and regulations to establish just what type of drink was entitled to be called a caipirinha - very detailed guidelines. Apparently, if you mix a drink that doesn't conform to these regulations and calls it a caipirinha, you've committed some sort of infraction. Although I'm happy about some of the details, such as the fact that a true caipirinha must use only cane sugar (no high-fructose corn syrup allowed!), other regulations seem either obvious or irrelevant.
If you do want to be an obedient citizen, before you mix your next caipirinha, read the regulations as posted on the blog. Otherwise, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Which is where law-abiding Canadians don't want to be.
James Pearce blogs about Brazilian cuisine directly from Fortaleza, Brazil