Bolo de Mandioca and a Bunch of Birds
There is a root that despite looking like the illegitimate love child of a potato and a rutabaga, is a magical tuber that though nearly unheard of in North America, is responsible for being the world's third largest source of human consumed carbohydrates (let us just assume that rice is number one) The mandioca root produces flours for cakes and breads both sweet and savory, it is sprinkled over rice and beans, the main ingredient of pão de quiejo (cheese bread), is pressed fine into a powder and mixed with water to create a fluffy beiju (pancake), and undoubtedly is present in hundreds of other things that i have yet to encounter. An alternate name: tapioca. Americans only know tapioca as a boba pearl used in sweet pudding. But it is so much more. Cakes, for example--and gluten free at that. excellent. on y va.
I was sitting on my bed after my run when D (H's mom) hands me a little note (one of the dictionary based ways we communicate) that said: observe, preparo beiju--to observe. me: é claro! which means, of course! D is an amazing chef, she is extremely busy and yet prepares a lunch and a dinner every damn day--she could (can) make rice and beans with her eyes closed. Brasilians eat rice and beans with every meal, no matter what the meal is, rice and beans will go along with it. At lunch once I was asked what it is that we have to the equivalent of the rice and beans--sadly i had to say that there isn't one. After the beiju, which turns out to be a traditional Brasilian indian dish, D told me we were going to make a bolo--a bolo, a cake! A cake! Ah happy day!
Using the google sentence translator, i suggested hey let's take photos of the cake and post it on my blog! D typed back--how about we take photos of the whole process from start to finish and put it on the blog. Even better. She would do very well in the blog business. The bolo de mandioca begins as a pile of grungy tuberous roots that are soaked and then peeled. It then must be pureed and squeezed of its liquid. We don't have a food processor here, but D explained that you "work around" the problem by using what you do have (i told her the French call it le systeme D)-- so we used a juicer (the juicer's name happens to be mallory. for serious. it says it right on the side! it's actually the name of the brand).
The white pulpy paste produced out the back of the juicer will act the flour. As to the recipe, well, it was more of play as you go baking, eu experimento, she explained as she replaced the usual milk with the mandioca juice. Excellent. She poured two cups of sugar into the bowl, beat it with butter, a little bit of salt, then we added the mandioca, and a cup of finely ground oatmeal, um pouquinho mais of sugar, 6 egg yolks (from three twin-yolk eggs) the mandioca juice, and then folded in the nearly whipped whites of the eggs. She then turned to me and said (something like) what do you think, baking soda? I answered, yeah, it could never hurt. let's do it. Two perfectly round cakes came out after about thirty minutes in the box; just in time for a 17h00 tea time.
What did we spread on the cake? A fresh made pineapple jam. There are so many fruits here. Was that an unneeded statement of the obvious? Why yes, but it needed a segway into transition. We had decided to spend saturday as follows: go running, buy a lamp (yes, a lamp), and then a friend's birthday dinner party in the evening, However, plans got muddled and the lamp had to wait until sunday. Instead what happened was bit of a twilight zone. H's mom and step father invited us to come to their property where they are building a cottage which will eventually be their house. Nothing is built yet, but the property is being prepped, and we went to see if the grass had grown. The cottages are in a petit town called Elias Fausto, about thirty minutes from here in Indaiatuba. Driving to the scene, i compared out loud "i feel like i'm driving in teletubby land" D loved it--i hope she names the cottage Teletubby Cottage. hehe. The countryside is beautiful; silent but for dogs, birds, and bugs, the sun was surprisingly hot this day. The image is not what one comes to expect from Brasil, well not a North American at least. No beaches am i showing you, but rather a finite beauty that simply is too breathtaking to lexically explain. I found myself almost near a tear: how lucky, how simplistically yet complicatedly lucky am i to be here, at this moment, in this spot, allowed to see, to feel, and to smell such raw goodness. When the Teletubby cottage is finally built, it will be the finest in the neighborhood.
As we were leaving (the grass seemed to be growing over the little hills just fine) we were stopped by one of the neighbors who lived in a weekend cottage to come in and see the "estate." holy crap. anyways--to be forthcoming, they had a lot of fruit, a lot of birds. Those are coconuts? A papaya tree? Coffee bushes? There is a pineapple growing out of the ground! I'm in heaven! As i plucked a jabuticaba off the tree to eat, i found myself shaking my head: this cannot be real. We went into the bird yard. look at all the poulets. i like the little white fuzzy ones. oh a turkey--quails, peacocks and birds behind cages with names unknown! my god, what twilight zone have i fallen into. I tried to explain what that meant to H who was slightly confused by my behavior, all i could find was that it meant, or rather felt too good to be true. he agreed.
On this short little drive we stopped along the way at a little road side fruit stand to get some grapes and goiaba. In English i suppose it is called an apple guava, as it is eaten like an apple. It is very pink on the inside, with sweet crunchy seeds. Those of you who know me are savvy of my apple obsession. I would not fight it if goiabas were to replace apples. coming from me and my sacred apple? Ahhh, so now you know how good they are. Along with the green bananas, and the still green papaya tree, all fruits are green. Green appears the magical color.
On the way home we stopped at a small roadside vendor who sold fresh sugarcane juice out of his truck. huh? on the drive we had passed many sugar cane fields, and H wanted to stop so i could taste a sugarcane (yes, suck on a sugarcane stalk) but well, who knows whose fields these are, and just the previous day he had told me a story about being chased by a madman with a rifle when he was eleven for stealing grapes from a farm...hmmm that sounds like a hobbit to me. hehe. Ah well look this man has sugar cane, and he'll squeeze it for us! what a deal right?! and all legal. he cut off a small piece of the core so i could suck the juice out. wow. this is natural sugar. very good. And then he hacked a bunch of canes apart with a huge knife, put them through the press with a couple of lemons, and poured us some juice. pure sugar. drinking pure sugar. mmmm. ahh brasil. each cup was on 2 R$, which is one US$. not bad at all. But the sugar cane man did tell me that for his photo--it would be extra. Well, he may have some royalties when im famous someday. oh la la.
Find me a better saturday i dare you. This one was perfect; from dawn past the dusk. Hey but let me be fair, sunday was tudo otimo as well. Sometimes you just can't explain why something makes you so happy; a rolling teletubby hill, or a little pineapple sticking its head out of a tuft of leaves--some things we just can't explain with reason, perhaps it comes with a fanning of time, but at present, all you can do is be happy that it makes you happy. That is a logic of two happies in one--did i just rip a hole in the universe? yes i think i did. holy crap. but you know what? i bought a lamp. and what can be happier than that.