Bela - Daniel Neri/Arte UOL - Daniel Neri/Arte UOL

Flor Gil, 13, even tries, but the nuances of the musical notes don’t enter the mind of her mother, Bela, 34. “She’s like, ‘do, do, mother.’ herself the daughter of Brazilian music icon and newly named Brazilian Academy of Letters immortal Gilberto Gil.

Chef, she goes against the family’s aptitude for songs. But her father’s influence is inspiration for her cooking, which she practices in the kitchen of her Camélia restaurant, in Vila Madalena, west of São Paulo. On the menu, she even has a dish named after a song-order a Refazenda salad.

Along with Gil, Bela tells this and other stories in the video above, “Origins: Music in the DNA of the Gil family”, made by MOVthe video producer of UOLin partnership with ECOA, the platform for UOL for a better world, and the Diversity Center.

While Gil’s Refazenda has avocado, tomato, papaya, tamarind, sweet mango and guariroba, Bela’s has peixinho da horta, purslane, sorrel and baru nuts – unconventional food plants that are rarely found in the supermarket. Despite having high nutritional value, they are not produced on a large scale in agriculture, which often treats some of their representatives as weeds.

She likes to say that she embraced gastronomy for good only after her maternal grandmother taught her how to make beans over the phone when she was studying in New York. With her father, she learned to respect nature’s time. The salad is named Refazenda, because the song criticizes agriculture’s drive to “standardize and accelerate everything,” explains Bela.

In the middle of the conversation, he starts humming softly, trying to remember a stanza:

“‘Early, before January / Sweet mango comes too’.”

Suddenly, he lets out a cry:

“Manga! I always knew that mango was a January fruit because of this song. It brings this feeling of respect for nature’s time. This is very important when we talk about local, regional and seasonal food. And this salad represents everything that.”

The chef and nutritionist Bela Gil

Image: Daniel Neri/Arte UOL

root ingredients

In Bela’s recipes, it is also common to find okra, peanuts, palm oil and oils that are traditional in quilombola, riverside and indigenous communities. For her, ingredients that should be valued. “It’s a cuisine of resistance, which fed many people and freed many blacks, because the female slaves made delicacies to sell on the street and buy their freedom. Not thinking about it when you eat an acarajé is terrible.”

Despite having been raised in a home where black culture echoed through the house, Bela did not recognize herself as a black woman until she was 30 years old. The snap came during the recordings of Bela Cozinha, a gastronomic program she presented on the GNT channel.

“The first time I realized I was black was when I was doing a program with a colleague, who is black. I said: ‘Why you black women’. And they wrote on Twitter: ‘Someone tell Bela she’s black, please’.”

Daughter of a white mother, the businesswoman Flora Gil, and a black father, she did not feel “entitled” to see herself this way, as she did not suffer as much prejudice as other people with darker skin color. After the social media pull of the ear, she approached the black movement and understood that there is room for light-skinned blacks.

Gilberto Gil’s family tree

It was with the desire to connect with erased origins that Bela accepted the invitation of ECOA. Together with her family, she did a DNA test that maps genetic ancestry and indicates the likely places where her ancestors came from.

“I know in which city my great-grandfather [materno] was born and raised in Italy. On my father’s side, it’s much more difficult. If you want to know about your Asian, European ancestry it’s simple. Now, black, black, from Africa? The way they got here they changed their name, became numbers, mixed ethnicities and people from different places. And it’s like it’s one thing, but it’s not. This erasure of identity and culture is very cruel.”

The test result made her even more comfortable. “It even gave me a certain relief, so to speak, in the sense that I was able to recognize myself as a black woman and say, ‘It’s there in my DNA’.”

The exam indicates that 68.9% of her genetic material comes from Europe and 31.1% from Africa. “Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Benin and Angola. I’ve never been to these countries, but I really want to visit them.”

no pity or reverse

Bela2 - Daniel Neri/Arte UOL - Daniel Neri/Arte UOL

Bela Gil with her father, Gilberto Gil, and children, Flor and Nino

Image: Daniel Neri/Arte UOL

Daughter, sister and aunt of musicians, she takes a ride on the genetic conversation to define her relationship with the music world. “I am the [gene] music recessive. My father passed this musicality on to his children and grandchildren in an extraordinary way, I was just a detour.”

Short detour, which led to his daughter Flor. Between attempts to teach her mother a musical scale, the 13-year-old girl has already recorded songs like “No Norte da Saudade” with her grandfather.

On the other hand, Bela says she shares her memory problems with Gilberto Gil. From losing keys, for example, she changed the apartment lock for a fingerprint reader. When trying to remember childhood, what comes is the father sitting in the living room composing. “When I got home and heard that guitar playing, it gave me the feeling of ‘I got home’.”

When her father wasn’t on tour, she traded stickers with him about yoga, philosophy and healthy eating – for years Gil was macrobiotic, a diet that seeks to prolong life through a vegetarian, wholesome diet.

“I think it was very satisfying and gratifying for him to see a daughter carrying forward some of this philosophy of looking at food as a way of preventing, treating and curing diseases. I think we connect in this place.”

Origin is where your roots are

bela3 - Daniel Neri/Arte UOL - Daniel Neri/Arte UOL

Bela Gil in three moments: as a child; at a church with the family in 1993; and at a show in 2004

Image: Daniel Neri/Arte UOL

No wonder the kitchen has a central position in his apartment in the capital of São Paulo, and conversations take place around the stove. From his parents’ house, he took to his home the tradition of pizza on Sunday nights and the habit of gathering friends. This she learned from her mother, Flora.

“My father got married several times, had many children, and my mother played a fundamental role in hugging everyone and uniting the family. There’s no such thing as ‘ah, because you’re the son of so-and-so’. New people arrive and it’s already a family .”

Although the DNA test provides some answers about the origins of her ancestors, it is this sense of belonging that guides Bela as she reflects on ancestry.
“Origin, for me, is taking care of our roots. I think it’s what gives you that filling. If you have a good, very strong root and you know where you came from, you know how to take care of that, you know how to protect that and you can grow and flower much more easily”, says Bela, Flora’s daughter and Flor’s mother.

Leave a Reply