Wartime rationing and women's suffrage helped popularize the sweet, named after Air Force Brigadier Eduardo Gomes
The 'brigadeiro' is made of condensed milk, chocolate and butter, and rolled in granules. Ingredients aside, the sweet has an unusual origin. It became popular in the 1940s, when rationing made condensed milk a common substitute for desserts. The story states that, around that time, women sold the treat at rallies in defense of Eduardo Gomes, presidential candidate and brigadier of the Air Force, during the first national election in which all women could vote.
Women began to unite for equal voting in the 19th century. The efforts of suffrage entities such as the Brazilian Federation for Women's Progress, led by scientist, future UN delegate, and politician Bertha Lutz, gained strength when women won the right of voting in Europe and the United States. After decades of struggle, Brazilian women were able to vote in 1932.
However, there were restrictions: only married women who had their husband's permission, single women who received their own wages and widows were allowed to vote. This affected women's political participation. As the Oxford Human Rights Hub, an international human rights organization, observes, “the extension of the vote to women in Brazil was a way of including them in the public sphere, while ensuring that the private sphere did not suffer any loss”. Thanks to continued efforts in the struggle for equality, voting became mandatory in the country for all between 1945 and 1946.
Bertha Lutz (1894-1976) (Foto: Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
At that time, the National Democratic Union (UDN) was formed, which opposed the populist regime of Getúlio Vargas at the end of the Estado Novo. The first candidate for the presidency of the new party was Eduardo Gomes. But before his candidacy, he was already famous in Brazil. Known as “the Brigadeiro,” he participated in a movement led by lieutenants advocating social reforms. In July 1922, a group led a revolt at Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro. Almost everyone was shot dead on the beach, except for Gomes and Antônio de Siqueira Campos.
Anyway, the main ingredient of the sweet is a creation from that period. Condensed milk was invented to sterilize pre-cooling milk and became indispensable in times of war, particularly during World Wars I and II. According to the publication Words Without Borders, the Second World War created a deficit in imports of products that were essential for the desserts of the time (such as fruits and nuts), so the sweets started to be made with what was available.
The brigadeiro may have been invented before the 1940s, but Nestlé started marketing condensed milk and powdered chocolate in Brazil in that decade. Along with Gomes' candidacy, the company's advertisements helped the treat take off.
Alessandru Lemos, apaixonado por moda, fotografia, tendências, viagens, gastronomia e que vive cada momento único.