What do green oranges, feijoada, and ballet all have to do with each other?

Yesterday, our hosts were given free reign to give us a taste of Brazilian culture and show us around as they wished. For our newfound host mother, this meant taking a walk around the local area to see several key elements of Brazilian life. First stop was the open-air market. As we traversed down the street lined with produce and wares, the atmosphere was filled with the calls of vendors, the chatter of people, and sounds of the city around us. Along the way our host mother was warmly greeted by many friends and fond acquaintances, and we even happened upon a couple of our own!

After experiencing the epiphany of ginger and sugar cane juice (mmm…so good!), we stopped to purchase some bananas and oranges. Here we had another revelation in store.

I don’t know how familiar you might be with the fruits of tropical climates, but something I was totally unaware of before this trip was that oranges are actually green here. No, it’s not that they are underripe (I have had quite a few over the past couple days, and they probably actually taste better than the ones at home); rather, it seems that our oranges are the “imposters.” Apparently, in order for the peel to turn its characteristic color, it must be exposed to the cold or treated to kill the chlorophyl, which results in the lovely orange hue. Green oranges don’t sell in first-world countries because consumers there assume they aren’t ripe (wouldn’t you?), but the truth is that an orange grown in its most natural climate will usually turn out green.

Does anyone else feel like their world has just been flipped upside down?

A ripe green orange (above); purchasing oranges with our host mother (top right)

With this knowledge still reeling through our minds, we left the market and headed to lunch at a local cafe where we met up with some of our hosts and their close family friends. Upon hearing that we still had yet to try feijoada, the national bean-based, pork-laden dish of Brazil, our host mother insisted that she be the first to share it with us. We quickly realized the reason for its mass popularity and had an immensely enjoyable meal, surrounded by many friendly faces.

Finally (to walk off the meal), we took a walk down the street to the local park, where we just so happened to arrive at the start of a grandioso performance in the park’s open-air theatre. As the performers marched out on-stage, our host mother explained that all these artists come from less-than-affluent homes and, except for a government grant to the local school of the arts, would not have normally had the opportunity to learn and perform at this level nor on this stage.

The performance was dedicated to all the mothers in the audience.

If you are still wondering what green oranges, feijoada,  and ballet they are excellent examples of the friendly, communal, and sometimes perspective-shifting character of Brazilian culture and the endearing effect it has had on each one of us over the course of this past week. I look forward to the next and wish all the mothers reading this a pleasant Mother’s Day.

(Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! 🙂 )

~ Nathan


Inglis-Arkell, Esther. “Everything You Know Is Wrong: Oranges Aren’t Orange.” io9, io9.Gizmodo.com, 16 Dec. 2015.

Categories: Brazil 2018


Lisa Torrell · May 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Thank you for educating me on the real oranges! I do believe natural produce is best, so I would definitely buy a green orange! Very nice you thought of your mom and the rest of the moms on Mother’s Day too! We are praying for you all! Have a blessed trip!

Rebekah Distaffen · May 14, 2018 at 10:39 pm

I really enjoyed reading this! I was shocked when you showed me your green orange– I did think it wasn’t ripe! Sounds like you had a fun day, and I am glad all of us are able to be here in Brazil together– experiencing the same things, yet drastically different things.

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