Cafe Brazil brings back childhood memories -- minus the pork and beef

Many Americans fondly remember food from their childhood -- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread for lunch, macaroni and cheese for dinner. But those aren't the comfort foods of my youth. Spending seven of my first nine years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, gave me a very different concept of comfort food. Our live-in housekeeper and cook, Congida, made giant pots of feijoada, a black-bean stew prepared with pork, beef or both, which she'd serve up over mounds of white rice.

We ate it at every meal, never tiring of the flavorful dish. For breakfast, Congida would sometimes fry an egg sunny side up, and I'd break the yolk atop the rice-and-bean mixture before mixing it all together in a glorious, delicious mess.

So instead of Jif and strawberry Smucker's, white rice with fried egg and feijoada are the flavors that take me back to my childhood. Over the past couple of years, since raising the vegetarian flag, I haven't been able to enjoy the feijoada my mother makes (she uses smoked sausage to get that authentic Brazilian flavor). In fact, as far as I know, there's only one place in town where you can get vegetarian feijoada: Cafe Brazil, at 4408 Lowell Boulevard.