O Brasil Inesperado

Brazil is an expansive country of 200 million people that, like the U.S., always has something to surprise you. Like America, Brazil ranges from the folk to the urban; from the quaint to the creepy. Sometimes it is what people think it is - rice, beans, sun, and samba - and sometimes, it's other things.

Like, an espresso-drinking country obsessed with fruitcake.

In the supermarkets, you'll find your standard coconut water (which only costs 6 reals, 3 dollars for a whole bottle vs. 3 dollars for an 8-ounce box in the U.S.):

But you'll also find...Old World-style fruitcake.

Panetone is apparently one of their prime holiday foods, (especially in Sao Paulo, whose 20th century European immigration rivals that of New York City) and now that Christmas is over, the panetones are all half-off.  (Sidenote: this Californian tried them, and they're good. Plus, they're good fare for the six o'clock espresso hour.)

Judging by the stock, it looks like folks will be eating fruitcake here until Easter:

Another Brazilian food fervor that took me by surprise - Activia. It's sold here in droves, and like the coconut water, it's not sold in small portions. This is like frontier-size Activia:

Who knew?