cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Begin With a Beer Nut

Commencer avec une noix de la bièrre - Começar com uma noz de cerveja
Salty Cod in Portugal Series Episode 1
A little yellow bean, she tells me, they are like a nut, not a nut, a fruit? Perhaps a small tomato. No it is a bean, like a nut. A peanut? No a bean nut. You can't get a beer without it, it's standard. They are bean nuts. Bean beer nuts. Vamos. Agora.

Tremoços are their name; the peanut of Portugal. The four days passed in Oporto I admit, were slightly preoccupied by wine bars and port cellars that I never once sat down in a pub bar, thus the allusive beer nut was still on my mind as the train left the Estação Campanhã and arrived three hours later in Lisbon at the Estação Oriente. 29degrees read the mercury. Arriving in Lisbon, for this blue eyed blondey, was meteorologically arriving at the gates of hell. am i seeing double? Perhaps it is the burn, je suis rouge comme un tomat, je pensais. Sitting inside my humid hotel of a hostel at the computer after writing my s.o.s of a 'come save me from this inferno!' whiny email to my personal hot-weather meteorologist expert whose new blog name is bq (beijo queijo), i sat glazzy-eyed for minutes in a daze only broken by a the little whistle of coucou, hey miss foodie would you like to join me and a few friends for snails? Snails? Well, of course I would.

My first question at any hostel reception is: what should i eat, but more specifically, where do you eat? A traveling foodie knows, like any Bourdain fan, that to find what and where to eat in a foreign city, it is singularly crucial to be verbal. id est, food travels by word of mouth. A silent traveler can always find a seat at the hard rock cafe, or space along the tourist track of myriad joints with waiters who pounce and heckle at passers by, thrusting their menus to any and all. with a hotness akin to a Los Angeles coke dealer. Most employees at hostels and hotels are locals, hopefully, and therefore just as likely to know the best place to eat as would the number one food critic in the city.

My conversations all begin as follows: I love to travel for gastronomic discovery, a culture is fascinating to discover through its food, i want to be a food writer, i have a blog, what is your favorite bacalhau dish? I came to this country inspired by a fish. Your fish. Perhaps I may frighten a few, but I procure results. So who in the end matters, what in the end matters? people may raise their brows which may cause your eyes to fall to the ground-- but really how could I expect anyone understand. Just remember there might somewhere be someone who does, and you only need one. Who wants to know somebody who isn't their self. A solo journey is never really solo if you have someone(s) to report back to, and there are always many people helping along the way who twine their path into yours. Make sure you eat dinner with them.

My first night in Lisbon was a bucket full of take out snails bathing in a pool of Douro Valley olive oil and salt, a gift of luck, i was told by the three Lisboans seated around the table, as that very day was the commencement of the snail season. I've rolled my roulette. As the snails disappeared faster than coconut covered pink marshmallows, it was suggested we search more provisions. Ladies you stay, have another beer (me wine. no beer), we'll get some mussels and octopus. What gentlemen. Wait! I cry, I need little yellow beans! I have their name written, just let me...tremoços. Tremoços!? They are beer nuts! they laugh--though with their return was discovered steaming mussels, a cold octopus and parsley salad, and a beer cup filled with little yellow beans, taken directly from the bar.

To eat a tremoços, or lupin or lupini bean--simply hydrate the dried bean in a salted water, throw in a beer cup (Portugal, so either Super Bock or Sagres) bite off a small end, grip the bean between your thumb and first finger, and pop the fleshy seed into your mouth, discarding the empty case in a tremoços ash tray. Beautiful. The little yellow bean. The little yellow interactive bean, as most bar snacks are interactive---breaking a pistachio shell, or cracking open a peanut. A beer snack is a beer snack in any culture, which proves that it is our differences that make our similarities visible.

Where are the tremoços in the US? In France? I promised J I would find them and report back--I will not disappoint. Until then, I leave you with the assurance that Portugal's little yellow bean of simplicity--hydration, makes a snack coveted from north to south, a little magic bean, i believe, that may give jack and his giant a run for their money. Eat a bean, and remember, it is never a shame or embarrassment to ask, even if you can only attempt with the native language, and attempt is a start. And there always has to be a start.

Até logo & A bientôt

This is a late addition: This photo (above) is for Click the Photo Event contest May theme: Beans and lentils. How could little tremocos pass that up. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Porto. Lisbon. and whatever is in between.This is it people, the big solitary pilgrimage to wine, cod, blue tiles, a thousand bridges, and a magical language. Thank you for staying with me this far, meus amigos, i promise i will come back to you.

Até à pròxima & A bientôt

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pão de Queijo

I post to mon ami - we see myriad Milous
As far as dedications run, they have a sticky reputation of reservation for the recently departed. But I don't cook for the dead. This is for someone alive; two arms, two legs, two blurry eyes, breaths air, drinks water. A real person. So surprise buddy! This post is for you. So I regret for the others if there is something you do not understand, chances are I don't either, so tant pis, as we would say. Well, perhaps the next one will be for you. Now here is your story to go along with the tapioca flour cheese balls that we'll pretend you ate.

Your typical weekend in Paris does indeed include French wine and marzipan at an Irish pub, street carnivals with children parading in guise of the cast from Tintin, science fairs, musical lessons, hippy funk music concerts, and of course above all others, saturday evening baking with friends, well rather saturday evening baking while friends are in the room. What, you ask, is being baked saturday evening while friends are in the room? why, pão de queijo that's what. A rather common and easily found confection of all corner pâtisseries--in Brazil. Snap. Call it near a croissant, Madeleine, or tuille in simplicity and popularity, but better. It's gluten-free. Tapioca. Tapioca tapioca tapioca. And cheese. Yes, cheese.

You like tapioca? D asked at the Easter brunch (see Easter post) You should buy these: pão de queijo. Oh, alright, I responded, as I was under the impression it was a form of cheese. What is this thing? I later asked my judicious sage - - - That? That? It's Only the 10th world wonder! Yeah? Yeah! It's our national biscuit! Tapioca flour, and cheese. Tapioca flour and cheese? Sounds like a mallory biscuit to me. I wonder why he would tell me to buy one here, i would ask him now but it may be rude to wake him at 2:30 to discuss brazilian biscuits. True. But promise me you'll make these! Now! They are shuétão! Of course I promise to make these, is that Portuguese for chouette? Nope. It's not a real word, it's my word. - - - You see, I keep my promises. shuétão!

(More dialog, this is a very chatty post) D, we're going to make those tapioca things you told me to buy, call Tartar. We'll split up the ingredient list and rendez-vous chez toi. Ok, I accuired all of the things you asked of me, and I found some extra sugar, just in case. What are you making with sugar? The tapioca. What tapioca are you making? What? We're making cheese biscuits, i'm not sure i want sugar in my cheese biscuits. We are? I buy those frozen and then bake them. Frozen? Paaaa-leeeaase. What did you think I wanted to bake for? I've never made those before! And I bought sweet tapioca starch, not salty! Oh bother. Pas grave pas grave! Salty-sweet. This is a Salty Cod-Mallory-Brazilian-National-Biscuit anyways, so hand me my spoon.

D's apartment (with the Eiffel Tower right out the bloody window) is a much more welcoming cooking ambiance than the subterranean yellow-tiled grotto of hell that is the Foyer Mignard kitchen, while the stove was yet the size of a small radio, it was much more reliable. While Tartar supped hummus and Advil (previous rough night you see. hehe. but with love), D piddled his guitar, and I rolled little tapioca biscuits thinking about how funny life is, and how one chance book, one chance encounter, one chance click, one chance fish, one chance anything can set your life off in a complete unexpected direction. Well, ---I suggest you bake all of the biscuits together or in two batches, as if you let them rest too long they will rise before your very eyes and puff up like little marshmallows, and sprinkle with salt before you put them in the oven, unless you have in mind to egg wash 50 little cheese biscuits. tee hee.

Pão de Queijo--Cheese biscuits:
1 cup water. 1 cup milk. 0.5 cup oil. 500 grams tapioca starch (sweet, is mine). 200 grams parmesan cheese (le conseil de maman). 2 eggs. Salt.
In sauce pan bring water, milk, salt, and oil to a boil. Remove, let cool slightly, add tapioca. Combine well, and let cool. Transfer dough to a bowl, add eggs and kneed well. Add more flour if necessary. Add Parmesan, and kneed until smooth. Line a tray with foil, and preheat oven to 200 C. Coat hands in oil, roll out small balls, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 20
minutes. *bake extra 5 minutes if you want them firmer on the inside.

1 xícara de água. 1 xícara de leite. 1 1/2 xícara de óleo. Sal. 500 grams de polvilho.2 ovos. 200 grams de queijo parmesão. shuétão!

They are supposed to be slightly gooyey on the inside, so I was reassured. I'm not going to brag, but they were bloody delicious, I'm in love! Do try it with honey though, cheese and honey you say? Well, naturally. So dear friend I have made them, and they were devoured. After we took turns proffering each other our favoirte funnies on youtube---can you see what they are watching?---later we made a rendez-vous with a friend of D, known as P, also a Brazilian, to whom I offered a pão de Queijo and was assured that that, was it.

So the day started in Tintin land (is that Belgium?), and somehow yet again ended in Brasil, but with strange 60's hippy funk music that was slightly terrifying. My little Milou devil, and of course my little brazil biscuits made for a beautiful, typical day in my Paris. É só vale enquanto a escrever sobre as coisas importantes, o meu amigo. Você deve saber o quanto eu agradeça-lhe por ter sido o meu melhor amigo através de tudo. A vida é engraçada. E estes são biscoitos para você!

If you come buy this biscuit at the salty cod this is what the sign will say, my first learned phrase in Portuguese: Agradecemos a preferência - - thank you for choosing us.

A bientôt

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Celebrity Foodie Sighting

I don't just mean I looked in a mirror. Eh eh eh eh.
Check it out though--Clotilde Dussolier, celebrity food blogger of the legendary Chocolate & Zucchini, cook book author, owner of a 60sec cooking demo on the Today Show, and all around iconic-queen of the food blogging community, signed MY version Francais of her cookbook. Neener neener neeeener. Tartar and I dragged little cousin PJ along with us last week to La Cocotte, a small and incandescently charming cook book store in the 11eme. Clotilde, her French version of the book that i already own in English, tapas, and, aperitifs were present. As well as many, many chouette readers.

I will be sure to inform you all of when my signing tour will begin---the napkins i will be signing will be free of course, but you must provide your own sharpie pen. Naturally.

A bientôt

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Petite Turn in April: Metz & Nancy

Trainspotting Mirabelles with a Cousin.
♫ Attention au départ, c'est le TGV♫
T'as ton ti
t'as ton ti
t'as ton ticket ?

zut, c'est râté!
J'ai pas composté
T'en fait pas le contrôleur n'a même pas regardé!

TGV TGV TGV TGV! All French children know and love the song (merci Flo for teaching me), the TGV reigns supreme. Imagine that in under an hour and a half one can be transported from the modern bubbling capital city that is Paris, to the Eastern region of Lorraine, to Metz and Nancy, where medieval dragons still call for silence, mirabelles abound in every shop window, and life appears just a little calmer, and a little closer. Bienvenue mes amis to the breathtaking region of Lorraine!

7h00 train out of Gare de l'Est, mmmm 4h30 alarm, taise-toi! I grumble at the vibrating telephone on the bed side table. Why am I waking at dawn to go to Metz--what is in Metz? Do not annunciate the name as one would that of the New York baseball team; repetez apres moi: messzz, softly, and trailing off at the end. Yes I find myself on the TGV to Metz at 7h00 on a quest to scout out my little cousin who is tripping around France with her high school French class, their first stop: individual home stays with families in Metz--therefore Metz it is.

9h00 at the train station was the plan created the previous night on the telephone with Pufflette Jr. (cousin, who will now simply be PJ). Standing at the beautiful Metz train station, i decide to telephone one of the numbers given to me at 9h30, for perhaps they are awaiting me at another entrance...(a young boy answers) allo? Ah, bonjour, je suis la cousine de (PJ), etes-vous a la gare? Non, je suis a la maison. Ah. ok, euh, puis je parle avec PJ? S'il vous plait. Elle dort. Comment? Elle dort! Arrrr non je te comprends mais....Ecoute bien: REVEILLE T-ELLE!! Tape sur la porte ou bien, c'est un peu important.... shuffle shuffle shuffle...Hello? Hi PJ, it's Mallory, you asleep? Yeah, what are you doing?.... I'm at the train station. You are?...sigh. Needless to say, I eventually made it into the company of my cousin and la Famille M, and after the blissful shock of finally seeing a member of my family after seven months, we began our wonderful weekend tour of the city guided and in the company of locals, there really can be no better way.

Once situated in the car, the non-stop questioning began. That would be, my non stop questioning. For those of you who perchance my acquaintance out there, you know I don't shut up. What's that? Why is everything purple? How long have you lived here? What's traditional Metz cuisine? I am very fond of writing about food, you said you were Italian? What's that little flag on your dashboard? Every city I travel to the rain follows me. When I went to Barcelona it rained for the first time in...yadda yadda. Ma pauvre exhausted cousin was, it appeared, relieved by my arrival if only for the break in awkward incomprehensible French questioning aimed at her. (Though may I state here that it is acutely brave to have just begun a language and venture into a foreign land and work at communicating with a family. Bravo.) The family patrons, E and C, graciously welcomed the random cousin of their host-daughter into their home for dinner and proffered an excellent tour guide service.

Following afternoon tea and a beautiful clafoutis, to which sadly i had to explain my non-wheatness and sheepishly insisted of C that it really was not necessary for her to change the nights menu on account of myself (merde--next time give warning to avoid feeling like an ass) we skimmed thorough a coffee table book on the region to plan the next days adventure. The first proposition: day trip to Verdun (are you kidding me!? are you kidding me!? im in heaven!) but that was washed on account of the rain and chill. Ah, the home of Robert Schumann, the father of Europe! He lives(d) just up the hill! Shall we? Afterwards we were treated to a charming stop in at an ancient cafe bar nestled in stone between all of the houses on the hill. Inside was a charming country inn straight from a film, complete with a party celebrating a 90th birthday off in the corner. Brilliant.

(Do you not adore random tourists captured in a photo to be stored in your memories forever? I wonder how many photos atop fireplace mantels in the world I inhabit.) Returning to the home we faced the aperitif hour--including a dineritif (tapas) of Italian ham, sausages, and radishes (A conversation on ham did indeed ensue). Dinner was enthralling not only for the food itself, but for the table; to be seated around a family in conversation, finally passing easily with the language one has struggle so violently to tame, is a gift not suitable for explication through words. The meal passed far too briskly, and when the cheese hour came I was introduced to a fiend who may cause an affair to my relationship with chevre--Italian Pepato (E was born and raised by Italians), a hard asiago with whole peppercorns. That settles it. I must now go to Italy.

The following day we ventured to the neighboring city of Nancy (non-see), which I was particularly pleased to visit so as to send my mum, of the same name, photos of her ville du nom. Nancy, what a belle ville, the Place Stanislas (named for the Polish king, who became the Duke of Nancy) scorches the eyes with its polished white stone and gilded Napoleonic-like gold embellishments. We set to Nancy to visit the Ecole de Nancy museum of art nouveau, the beautiful genre of nature, curves, wood, and glass that undoubtedly held bilbo baggins as an enrolled student. For lunch we supped on the Place Stanislaus, sharing a platter of assorted treats including fois gras, legumes, sausages, tapenades, and frog legs. Yes, I have finally tasted frog legs: and god smiled, and it was good. Ma pauvre cousin however looked but a stones throw short of regurgitation, though the brave she is, nibbled a thigh in good traveling spirit. Bravo!

Travel diary aside, my village meandering did bring me to note the gastronomic specialty of the region--the sucre little mirabelle. And you thought I was going to interject the quiche here.

Every store front window of alimentation hosted some form of the petite little orange ball--cakes, candies, pastries, jams, bottled liqueur, biscuits, etc. Bringing the subject to my locals, I was explained that yes! the mirabelle is a specialty unique to the Lorraine region of France, and only to the Lorraine region of France, just as Champagne is unique only to the region of Champagne. The mirabelle is also known as a mirabelle plum, or prune, and is bright orange/yellow in color. The two main regional growers: why Metz and Nancy of course. The mirabelle of Metz differs from the mirabelle of Nancy in its smaller size, deeper color, and higher taste of acidity. Aside from its rampant use in baked goods, mirabelles are predominately found jarred, jamed, and distilled into a plum brandy. E also mentioned of the annual mirabelle festival in late August, at which tarts rule the day, and a mirabelle queen is named.

A weekend away with mirabelles, how truly lucky is the one who utters such a phrase. The French are spoiled with their easy access to the country side through the genius darling that is the TGV. After the day trip to Nancy, we were back by car to Metz to catch my 4h00 train back to Paris. An hour and a half later I find myself back in Paris, with the sight of yellow stone and the taste of sour mirabelles tucked into memory already. What in the end is a day and a half really to see anything, but it was a day and a half to see my darling cousin, and a day and a half to meet some genuinely enchanting people, of whom i remercier beaucoup, for my next trip to Metz and Nancy, I am prepared. Shall we say it again o bitter world--vive la France!

A bientôt

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fools!

Pablo got me goodNow i just made a post yesterday (which is gone now due to irrelevancy) stating that there is nothing exciting in the realm of cuisine, travel, and or blogish to write about and thus my absence. Preoccupied by classes, work, sticky living situations, being a human, yadda yadda, havn't had any adventures lately. Either way, that all changed--when Pablo came into my life.

There are three of you out there (my confidants) who know already about Senior Pablo from Espagne--the "ham man." For the rest of you--I will splain:

A few days ago I received an email from a man named Pablo proclaiming his enthusiasm for my blog (this one) and how especially he enjoyed the posts about ham. God damn it! I thought as I bawled over with laughter, what is the deal with this bloody ham?! It is still haunting me!! As my friends, I trust you enough to post the full message for your viewing:

Hola Senorita! This is probably very strange e-mail for you to read, but my name is Pablo and I live in Espagne. I read your blog and I find the pictures very beautiful and the story of Iberica Ham very interesting. There is a very strong ham history in my familly and so I like very much to read that others find it ineresting to. I think I will come to Paris sometime this Spring, do you have any more knowledge on the ham in Paris, besides the restaurant Fogon and the butcher Bellota Bellota. I don't very understand the last picture in one blog with the girl looking as a ham, what means this? Is this a television program for America? Hope to hear from you soon! -Pablo

There you have it. Why don't I get emails like that from the rest of you!? Neanmois--I wrote the ham man back explaining how I was happy to hear from him, and explained how I knew nothing about French ham, and went on to explain the Scout ham costume from to Kill a Mockingbird. So happy that I actually had a literary fan (chouette! even if its a ham guy) I enthusiastically, shared the ridiculous news with my mum and bon ami. Mum: Ahk! sounds like a creep! Friend: Damn, I need to get a blog. Well mes amigos, Pablo wrote back:

Estimada Mallory,i am happy that you like my message. it is very a pleasure to me read your blog. i am very much interested in people who like ham as me. the story of ham in my family is not very much known. but it is good story for my family and Espagne. my family grows up the chanchos since hundred of years now. we live in country part outside of Mardrid-la capital! since these many many years, many many generations, and many Pablos before me,we sell only these grandest chanchos to La Familia Real-(Borbon) and their cooks for them. for so many years we have had this relationships and it brings very a lot history and proud to my family. even today, we give to Jaun Carlos. if you want i will send to you some little rodaja so you can eat of the ham of the kings in Espagne, specially because you could not do this as you wished in Barcelona! Pleasant rest of day ma carino-Pablo

Wow, I thought, free ham!

Today I recieved a knock at the door: Oui entrez. Entrez. Entrez damn it! Arg I have to get up? --open door: look down, and what is there----ham. Spanish ham. And a note: Feliz Dia de los Santos Inocentes, Happy [April] Fool's Day. Love from 4 generations of Pablos--aka M & S. Oh snap. I've been hosed. Or rather hammed eh? hehehe.

Pablo n'existe pas! He is the creation of my two dear friends M & S (the reverse makes too many giggles) who ventured on this impetuous whirlwind of a sojourn from Gonzaga to Paris with me. What creativity these two darlings posses. I don't know why, but it makes me want to tear (Especially since the ardent Buddhist/vegetarian S went all out and actually purchased ham. bravo.) Let me delve now into melodramatic prose on life lessons--you should be used to that by now-- Mallory is a person that thinks she knows--not knows in the Socratic sense of wisdom, she is not that base, but knows what life should be like, what cookie cutter yet self proclaimed virtues and paths to follow. If you know her, you will find that she is trying to get past her perturbing robotic response of I know. Je sais. Je sais... because elle ne sait pas. You can't do everything by yourself. That's really it. You just can't. And if you do, you're a fool. N'importe de quoi who your friends are if they make you happy, and if you make them happy. So whether your pals are are the black sheep rebels of the heard (sorry ladies, you know you are....he he he) graduated firecrackers who lose their shoes in Amsterdam, a crazy family back home with more drama than E! True Hollywood, a bunch of bloggers--whether in Spain or Virginia's other half, gambling French waiters, Mexico's lost culinary and musical masters, ADD five year olds, or are far far away in a foreign land yet more real than the neighbor next door. Kosher is for the birds. Am I trying to tell you that life is a basket full of gluten-free licorice? Absolutely not. Never. Life is a fact. Deal with it. But when you are absolutely positive that no one is there, remember this: you're wrong.

Ham on my doorstep from Pablo--they got me good. A bit of the card read: "Your blog has brought much enjoyment to our lives, Pablo was our way of saying thank you. You only take the time to joke with those you care about." Their reasoning for picking Pablo: Damn it Mallory you and that damn ham! Your damn nicknacks! The wierd shit you send in the mail! Portuguese? You are out of your mind. Dried Figs? Yet, they are there anyways. And you too are their anyways. So readers, je vous apprecie beaucoup.

April fools ham!! I'm never going to get away from ham. Dinner: some ham, and fittingly this bottle of Spanish Crianza brought by C my Gonzaga gal in Barcelona a couple weeks ago! And maybe some sushi. Ok--take a breath; we will return to all seriousness in the next edition of expose ourselves weekly. What have we learned? It is very easy to trick me--the Thinker statue in the backpack. Sister Rybone its only you.

HERE YEE! I want you ALL to email Pablo and tell him thank you for making us all smile. the little bitch. hehe.

A bientôt
Até à pròxima