Breakfast is a simple affair in Brazil: coffee, milk, bread and jam, sometimes cheese and ham, with fresh fruit. My favorite: papaya! In Belém do Pará I also had mangoes and a wonderful avocado cream. In Recife, a tasty, salty grilled cheese (queijo de coalho) I had never eaten before. In Rio, it's also available in certain restaurants and at the beach, kind of a recent fad.
Lunch & Dinner
Whether at home or in a restaurant, meals are sacred: a time to eat, but also to share precious moments with family and friends. Now, here's a Brazilian custom I miss enormously: a decent, sit-down, leisurely-paced lunch and/or dinner. To this day, I have to keep reminding myself... "what's the big hurry?"... and I confess that one of the things I look forward to, when I go to Brazil, are the "family" meals. We have a joke that, if you see people sitting around a table in the US, having lunch for longer than 1/2 hour, it must be a business lunch...And also, this abominable thing of sitting at your desk or in your cubicle, eating lunch while you work is incomprehensible to most Brazilians, who leave their offices to eat with their colleagues and friends in restaurants and cafés. You guessed, lunch is usually a more substantial meal than in the U.S.
For lunch and, depending on the location, also dinner, Brazilians have wonderful, inexpensive restaurants where home-style meals are sold buffet-style by kilo. You just pile the food on your plate and someone will weigh it for you. The same goes for desserts. You order drinks from your waiter and pay him at the end of your meal.
Dinner is served much later than in the U.S. In the big cities, children are a common sight in restaurants at night, since Brazilians will take their kids out to dinner at all hours. As a result of this and the traditional Sunday lunches, Brazilian kids learn table manners and etiquette at an early age. For many of my Brazilian friends (in Recife and Porto Alegre, for instance) dinner is a lighter meal of café au lait, bread, cheese and cold cuts. So expect either type of meal.
Lanchonetes & Lojas de Sucos
When you stop to eat at a lanchonete (snack bar) or at a juice bar like this one, stand around until you finish your food. It's NOT OK to eat on the go...As a rule, Brazilians do not eat while walking down the street or while riding the bus or the subway. Also, they will not have coffee cups and drinks in their cars. They do enjoy stopping at a juice bar or a kiosk for a sandwich and a glass of freshly-squeezed juice, but will stand around until all the food is consumed (even if it's a food cart on the street in Ipanema!). Brazilians find it rude to eat in places that are not MEANT for that...(Usually, they'll have tiny bags of popcorn at the movies, but that's that. It's quite a novelty when you first arrive in the U.S. and find out you can pork out in the movie theaters. On the other hand, all the better theaters have marvelous cafés where you can get fresh pão de queijo and other Brazilian delights.)
Brazilians drink small - but potent - cups of coffee all day long, at lanchonetes and juice bars. We even have a page dedicated to the traditional Brazilian cafezinho.
There are also a lot of lanchonetes that specialize in esfihas, quibes, and other yummy savory stuff of Middle Eastern origin.
Brazilians will usually use a fork and knife for pizza, open sandwiches, and even chicken. They are amused and even amazed at the American way of eating such foods with their hands. The fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right (unless you're a leftie, of course). I still eat that way while my friends across the table will keep switching the fork from one hand to the other...