Soup & Stuff | “I need space, my own life, a place of my own”

This series has barely been launched and we have a request for a second series on sweet foods. For whilst Giovanni de Almeida Calheiros is happy to take part in this column, soups are not exactly his area of expertise. If, on the other hand, we want to talk confectionery, this Brazilian, who has just finished his PDEng at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, would love to hear from us.

photo Rien Boonstoppel

Giovanni loves life in the Netherlands. Two years he has been here now and as yet he has no intention of leaving. If only because it is considerably safer here than in Brazil and he loves the Dutch weather. Hold on a minute, what? He laughs. “I always get this reaction, but in Brazil it really is much too hot.”

Asked for his impression of Dutch cuisine he looks pained. “I'd rather not say.” Or perhaps he will. For example, there's the ever-present lunchtime cheese or chicken fillet sandwich that his Dutch colleagues seem to live off, while he himself enjoys rice, salad and beans. Giovanni is only mentioning it, he isn't passing judgment, but still, he can't help shaking his head in disbelief.

He likes to cook, says this 37-year-old Brazilian. Preferably without following the recipe too closely, “unless the recipe is very good”. And preferably something sweet. “In Brazil we have the Dutch Pie, whose ingredients include dark chocolate and mascarpone. The recipe is very laborious, it takes some eight hours to make.” But Giovanni isn't an engineer for nothing. “I don't need all that time, I thought. Now I make it in two hours.”

At grandma's birthday, there would be more than four hundred people and that's just counting immediate family members

Giovanni de Almeida Calheiros
Former PDEng at Mathematics and Computer Science

Cooking and especially eating were prominent themes as far back as his childhood. “My great-grandmother had twenty-two children, my grandma ‘only’ fifteen. You can imagine how gigantic our family get-togethers were. At grandma's birthday, there would be more than four hundred people and that's just counting immediate family members, not even their partners. My memories of those occasions are mainly of a lot of people, lots of children and huge tables laden with vast amounts of food.”

Family recipes per se, passed down from generation to generation, don't spring to Giovanni's mind - with the exception of certain desserts, but that's no doubt due partly to his own penchant for sweet foods. One particularly vivid memory is how his grandma used to make her own coffee. By hand, with the help of what he can best describe as some kind of immense  mortar, but made of wood. “I can still picture it today.”

And he remembers the cheese that his grandma used to make. A “very different kind of cheese” to those are familiar with here in Europe, although surprisingly enough the adult Giovanni embraces all sorts. “Mature cheese, young cheese, blue cheese - fantastic.” Less fantastic though are onions. “I've always had a problem with onions. Even as a child”.

He's always up for chocolate though, in whatever guise, form or combination. “I buy large bars and when I get home I try not to eat it all at once. I was in Aachen and visited the Lindt store; I left there with three kilos of chocolate.”

Read more about Giovanni below the recipe.


Bean soup with bay leaves by Giovanni - available each day of this week in the canteen in MetaForum and on some days at other VITAM locations as well.

For 6 bowls of soup
Preparation time: 20 minutes

You will need
- 2 cans of pinto beans
- 6 bay leaves
- 8 cups of water
- 1 cup of pasta
- 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 tbs. oil
- 200 g smoked Portuguese sausage (sliced)
- pressure cooker
- food blender or staff mixer

Place the beans, the bay leaves and six cups of water in a pressure cooker. Cook for 30 minutes (starting from when the pan starts to hiss) or until the beans are tender. Remove the pan from the heat.

Mix the beans, the bay leaves and the stock with a staff mixer or food blender to a thick paste. Place the paste in a pan, add the remaining two cups of water and season to taste with pepper and salt. On a medium heat, bring to the boil. Then add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the garlic in oil until it is golden brown. Add the sliced Portuguese sausage to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sausage and garlic to the soup, mix and bring to the boil. Bon appetite!

Click here for the original recipe for this ‘Sopa de feijão com louro’.

& Stuff

Finally, three provocative personal questions from Cursor's glass storage jars, while the chef dots the i's and crosses the culinary t's.

What is the greatest difference between you and your parents?
“Mainly, I think I'm a bit bolder than my father. (Giovanni’s mother died when he was twenty-one, ed.) My father has lived almost his entire life in the same place, in the same city, in the same house. As you can imagine, ideally he would have liked me to have stayed with him and to work for him. But I didn't want that. I need space, my own life, a place of my own.

I grew up in Maceio in the northeast of Brazil, a city of 1.3 million residents - small, by our standards. I am the middle child in our family. I have a brother and a sister. Come to think of it, they too have always stayed in the same place, have carried on doing the same things. I wanted to get away, go to the big city, discover things for myself, make mistakes. I think I was sixteen when I went to Sao Paulo to work. I liked it immediately.

I have been in the Netherlands for two years. I have just completed my PDEng and am now working at Thermo Fisher, formerly FEI. I have not been back to Brazil during this time, but I try to call or app with my father every week. He still wants me to come back to Brazil, but I feel at home here. I don't want to leave, not for the time being.”

What have you learned today?
“That tot straks is not quite the same as tot ziens. This afternoon at work when I left my supervisor I said tot straks - to which my supervisor said, ‘Er, I don't know if we'll see each other again today’. It's the difference between 'see you later' and 'goodbye'.

Dutch is a difficult language. I am doing my best to learn it, for instance I took a Dutch course at TU/e. I now have a basic vocabulary, but if people are speaking Dutch around me, I catch maybe two or three words that I recognize. So there's plenty of room for improvement. I hope to be able to learn Dutch properly in the next two or three years as part of my inburgeringscursus (integration course) - another difficult word.”

What preconceptions do people have about you?
“That I can play soccer, can dance and that I celebrate carnival. As a child I did play soccer in a field near my home. But that ended after I gave a pile of stones a powerful kick instead of the ball. The impact nearly shattered my foot. Dancing? I wouldn't know how. Though once, when I was about twelve, I had a couple of dance lessons. Everyone could dance, so I wanted to see if I could do it too. But I just don't have dancing genes. When I go out, I prefer to go somewhere to eat with friends, to chat.”

About Soup & Stuff

Every three weeks we interview a TU/e student or employee in the kitchen; about food, about their motivations and (pre-)occupations, and any other topic that comes up. The interviewee shares their favorite soup, and in the week that the interview appears, the soup is on sale on our campus in one or more of the canteens run by caterer VITAM. You will find all the interviews and recipes here.

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