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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Biscotti to Bahia & a Muffin on the Table

Hang the Spoons up to Dry

I dug myself a hole with the whole biscotti thing. Over the past two weeks i have made about four dozen pieces of biscotti. That's a lot of scotti. When requested to make more, i think to myself, ahhh there are so many better treats i could come up with than dry old biscotti. But it was a hit, and i suppose it travels well. So when H's mom bought a plane ticket home, to Bahia in the north where she hasn't set foot in over thirty-five years, not since she left to start a new life in Sao Paulo, she requested i make a bit of biscotti for her to take to share with her relatives. You want to take my baked goods? I was very flattered. Of course! As much as you can carry i'll make! She smiled her, i don't know what you are saying but you sound and look happy, so ta bom! smile.

Biscotti is like any old cookie; a blank canvas for any and all flavor combinations. I chose almond, apricot, and orange with dark chocolate tips for one; and chocolate cookie, white chocolate, and brasil nut with zebra tips for the other. Are we baking this the night before she leaves? why yes we are. alright. let's pump this out. It's already nine in the evening. to make the story short; only one scotti made it to Bahia. The first--a bit heavy, perhaps too many fruits, knick knacks, yadda inside its crust, so when i asked H to grab one side of the parchment that thinly supported the mammoth's weight, to carry it across the kitchen to find an open space to dry, the natural thing to happen would be for the paper to tear and send the fatty loaf tumbling to its doom. and we're all about natural here. we both looked at the steaming pile of...well now it's just break. and then i burst out laughing. well, i began, now we'll have bread pudding. huh? You've never heard of bread pudding? Excellent. When life gives you lemons. Well at least i was planning a second biscotti anyways. So the next morning D boarded the plane in her jet-setting stripes and heals, and a little paper gift bag full of chocolate biscotti and tied off with a ribbon. Biscotti to Bahia, my how Salty Cod confections have traveled thus far. who would have thought.

As happy as i am for D to finally make a visit home after all these years, i must confess my selfish disdain--i have lost my day partner. She seems to be the only one my--though extremely limited--Portuguese will flow freely with. And now i must pass the days without her. You know most keenly a good friend when you first must absent them a bit. But before she left, i had two lessons: this is how you cook the rice and beans. ah brasil.

Would you, could you, should you imagine a stuffy nose head cold in brasil; is that possible? unfortunately yes. and i have one. how? apparently it is because i refuse to wear shoes...or rather it is because i left the window open the other night which caused the brasilian to fall ill, which in turn caused the window-loving arctic northerner to catch it. damn it. so in my solitude in illness stuck to the house, i thought to make bread. booh. only one cup of flour. just my luck. now i will pout and do nothing. a few hours later H called to check on the status of my sante, and in doing so somehow propelled me to crawl through the pantry in search of another rout. I'll make something, flour isn't the end of the world. There were bananas, pineapple, coconut, cornmeal, and tapioca flour...but no eggs. so. hmmm. they love basic biscotti like it's caviar, perhaps they've never had a muffin before either...can i do it without eggs? and with alternative flours? well. we'll see won't we. to the bat cave! or rather isn't it, on y va.

With one cup of of D's favorite words in the kitchen is experimento--hey what do we do with these leftovers? She ponders only briefly, then tosses the choux, mandioca, and gritty bits of leftover sausage into a tupperware and throws it in the fridge. She looks at me--experimento. excellent. let's just hope it doesn't grow legs and walk out of the fridge. To return to the litterary path i was trying to weave here; i grabbed the chocolate chips, browning bananas, and tapioca flour. chocolate banana muffins with a coconut cream cheese on top because i can't handle naked muffins. did you know snob is the same word in portuguese. now you do. wait; perhaps i should have a backup if these go a bit south of their intent (remember the other night's biscotti...) there's a pineapple. Pineapple and coconut corn muffins. wooo. that's sounds pretty damn brasilian if you ask me.

Chocolate Banana muffins:
ingredients: 1 cup flour ~ 1 cup tapioca flour ~ three small smashed bananas ~ 1.25 sticks butter ~ 0.5 cup sugar ~ vanilla ~ 1 cup chocolate chips ~ 1 tsp baking soda ~ 0.5 cups milk
method: mix dries. mix wets. combine. and pop in a muffin cup.
*frosting is a coconut cream cheese butter cream

GF Pineapple-Coco Corn muffins:
ingredients: 1 cup tapioca flour ~ 1 cup corn meal (flour? not exactly sure what it is. it was in the cupboard) ~ 1/2 cup coconut milk ~ 1 cup chopped pineapple ~ 1.25 sticks butter ~ 2 tsps baking soda ~ vanilla 0.5 cups sugar
method: same as above

It has been quite rainy. overcast skies and stormy winds; the power was out for a couple hours yesterday morning. christ. am i in seattle? Driving to a restaurant last night on a foggy lined avenue that looked more like London-town than Brasil, H jibed; doesn't look much like brasil eh? To which, after being here a month, i replied -yes, yes it looks like brasil to me now. it is funny how all things in life must come with preconceived notions; that is the nature of thought. but it is also the nature of thought to bend. thought propels experience; we are driven to nothing without first its pull. then, full circle, experience refines our thoughts. thought for experience, experience for real thought. one cannot exist without the other. an intrinsic need for the other. the chicken or the egg. there is no start. you wake up, and you breath.

In return to the statements on meteorological happenings; with the celestial tearing, the clothes line outside the house rests empty of our clothing, sheets, towels--naked wires spotted with wooden pins. Dryers do not exist in this country. It is not a matter of wealth, but rather, why a machine to dry when there is always warm air to do the job? true. so i have become used to seeing my clothing blowing amongst the others in the wind through the windows. On a rainy day the pins appear so melancholy perched like wanting crows perched against silent gray backdrops. no clothing to dry. what then can fill their jaws? i will tell you now a small insignificant thing that makes me happy without explanation: coffee spoons. i am thrilled to again be in a country that values coffee spoons. though now when i see coffee spoons i am reminded of TS. Elliot's piece on Alfred J Prufrock; i measure my life in coffee spoons. hmmm. intention to imply a meaningless life of routine? no one would accuse me of lack of spontenanity, but i view no evil created by small routines. The routine and the abstract; together they make a fine pudding. As for the coffee spoons. well, they are awfully cute. perhaps it is the routine spoon who needs to hang up to dry.

Unlike the biscotti, both muffins seemed to work out. And my stuffy nose i don't want to do anything attitude was magically transformed by the power of mock studio photography setup. How to deal with a moody mallory: force her to shoot food. and perhaps offer some eyedrops. it's Tomorrow, dear friends, after my visit to the English school, i will go to the store, get some flour, make my french baguettes, and turn that frown upside down. besides. the coffee spoons are probably dry by now.

the first photo above is my June entry to Click's theme of "stacks"

a bientot

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Santa Catarina State

Now Pay Close Attention: Itajaí , Camboriú, Porto Bello, Bombinhas, and FlorianópolisWow, who could have ever imagined that this country that is larger than the United States actually has localities aside from Rio, São Paulo, and the Amazon. Go Figure!

Guess what. Last Thursday happened to be a holiday--Corpus Christi (i love Catholic countries) and so we peaced-out for the long weekend. Where did we go for this rainy winter holiday? Why south of course, where it is yet even colder. When a herd shuttles north, the clever thing to do is swim against the current. A private beach in Brasil? Not possible you say? We only like to do the impossible here at the Salty Cod. You are thinking--mallory, a holiday while on a holiday? Aren't you already in Brasil? Well yes, but believe it or not people here Yes. It appears that people have jobs, raise children, maintain homes, go to school...weird. Anyways. A long holiday to break the routine, that is after all the definition of the word. A few weeks ago when deciding where we to go, H suggested, why don't we go to Rio and visit R? Rio? I lighted, Rio?! Hooray! Coincidentally, R happens to have just moved to New York. Hmmm, we both thought. Rio without a guide--no thanks, tourist track is not for us. Next idea was mine: how about Porto Alegre to visit D? It's a possibility, H replied...though we would have to fly...15 hours in the car is pushing it. Otherwise air tickets we're looking at R$1000. 15 hours? or R$1000? Forget it. I know, brains continued, let's go to Florianópolis, it's an island in the south. I have friends from high school nearby we could stay with. It will be cold and off season though. Let us recap: uncrowded beaches, a place to stay, and local guides? Did i just strike a dumb-luck mine or have i magically fallen into a state of life where everything just happens to be perfect? Well that settles it. A trip to the coast of Santa Catarina state to visit some old friends. on y va.

There are twenty-six states in Brasil...third grade must be ever so much more pleasant with only twenty six rather than fifty bloody capitals to memorize...Twenty Six. São Paulo is a state containing a capitol city of the same name. Rio de Janeiro likewise. Florianópolis is the capital city of Santa Catarina, which is bordered by Paraná state to the north, Rio Grande do Sul to the South, and is flanked west to East by Argentina and the Atlantic Ocean. What is so special about this state? Famous for the beaches of course. During the summer the coastal cities are covered like moss on a trunk with mostly foreigners looking for soft sand--ergo Argentinians. But in the "chilly" middle of June--the cities and their praias are sleepy. In other words, a synonym for perfect.

The southern most states in Brasil undoubtedly boast a higher standard of living than the northern states. Why beat around the bush. The south is predominately white, drawing heavily on its immigrant past of European migration; mostly German, Ukrainian, Italian, and some saucy Portuguese. Like most cities in America that claim to be "Little Bavaria" or "Little Norway," the heritage is more now desired rather than ingrained. But architecture plays the greatest display of Santa Caterina's "Euro" heritage.

Eight hours drive from Indaituba SP, but driving through the country side made the long hours fly. As did nearly running out of gas in never-ending state park (note: it is against the law to operate gas stations in state parks. good to know...we payed a thief R$30 for a dribble. raaaape.) Somehow we managed to get to the house of G and R, without a map or directions. How the hell do you know where you are going? i asked H. Meh, he replied, i googled earthed it the other actually i don't know where i'm going, i just think i do. Well. Some people have built in GPS. It takes me an hour to find my grandmothers house...S i live to make you chuckle. wtf. We arrived without a single turn around. damn you.

G and R live in the port city Itajaí, for you Seattle readers, think: Tacoma. Cargo ship yards hug the coastal high ways behind the neat cobble stone alleys of house rows. It is difficult to imagine the entire scene under five feet of standing water only only six months prior. In November 2008, Itajaí (along with many other cities) suffered a devastating flood which drove some eighty-thousand people from their homes. The cities, miraculously, have recovered in the short time elapsed, though the waters did take a near one hundred victims along with them as they receded back to the Atlantic giant. Thankfully G, R, and their daughter AC not only survived but recovered. So if you three are reading this, muito obrigada por sua hospitalidade, vocês três são amigos maravilhosos e mal podemos esperar para ver o bebê! beijinhos!

After we arrived i was exhausted beyond imagination. we didn't sleep much the night before. and cars put me to sleep...then segway into non stop Portuguese which trying to understand is an incredibly tiring mental process...eyes closing...hey Mal, H says, they invited us to go to a church meeting at a friends house tonight, i think it polite we go. Church meeting? in a house? oh bother. Three hours. Three hours of a group of perhaps twenty seated in a circle taking turns reading passages of the bible out loud. Passages from the bible in English send me to the sandman. So passages in Portuguese--dear god somebody shoot me please. nodding...nodding...snap the neck back, damn did they see? i survived only through eyeball Morse code with H, and the presence of at least 7 small children to distract me. Sitting in my plastic lawn chair, i turned to H and whispered, i thought only i could get myself into absolutely ridiculous situations like this, but apparently we're a pair! As painful as it was, the welcoming attitude toward us was so kind that i had to admit that i was happy to be there; i love these moments above all others where you turn your eyes from face to face, wondering how on earth you came to be here, in this spot, at this moment, with these people. A small town in the middle of nowhere, late in the evening, in the crowded sitting room of smiling strangers, my best friend by my side, and a curly haired baby tapping my knee. Life is, i did have corn ice cream earlier in the day at the corn castle, life is--wonderful.

The beach. It's why we came. Early the next morning (actually we woke up at 11. There are first times for everything) we drove to the nearby city of Camboriú, what I from the first glance forever after referred to as "video game city." It looks fake. Photoshopped into an idealistic picture perfect backdrop; white seaside sky scrapers all hugging the petite chic shopping lined alleys. God damn it i am yet in a twilight zone. We climbed to the top of Bald Man's mountain, to get an aerial view of the city and were treated to a front row air gliding demonstration. G&R left us to tour the beaches and wander the city during the day; and after a gondola ride up and over a hill to what appeared a sheltered beach cove, i realized there was no other word for it all other than paradise.

The next day we hit it hard with visits to three beaches: Porto Bello, Bombinhas, and Joaquina beach in Florianópolis. success. But how can one place be better than another? The answer is they can't. They all have their merits. At Porto Bello i felt in a European quiet coastal hamlet, in Bombinhas a Floridian California Coast-goer as we sat for lunch at a beach side restaurant, and in Floripa it all came crashing down. how am i so lucky to get to see all of this. why do i deserve. what did i do for this? I haven't found the answer yet, but i've always held a card of self pity believing myself eternally down on luck. But i'm the luckiest girl on the planet standing here on this rock with violent surfer waves crashing in rhythm a violent applause. Hey look up there it's Gustavo Kuertans house (i was at the Roland Garros last year for his final appearance in professional tennis) well, well, well. life is a chain of events.

Sunday. My sandy feet are exhausted. Time to stay home. R's brother, who lives down the road, was having a barbecue--correctly termed churrasco. it's what Brasilians "do." oooh, i thought, perfect opportunity to show off and bake something. I had made chocolate orange biscotti at home wednesday night as a gift to G, seemed basic enough as an edible hospitality gift. First: no one at home had ever heard of biscotti before and they were enchanted by them. hmmm...success! The ones that actually made the trip were a double success--consumed all in the first night. No one there had ever heard of basic biscuit before either. how? how is that possible? Either way, the dry coffee shop add-on was making me popular, so i suggested to G we make two different flavors for the barbecue on sunday. that got me a smile. hmmm, how about white chocolate pistachio, and lemon vanilla dipped in bitter sweet. hmmm. sucessssss.

And now: what would perhaps be a horror story to some, i title here what could only be a Salty Cod-possible adventure in frustration turned laughter. bring it. So i was in the kitchen down the road where four women were preparing the non-meat parts of the barbecue. hmmm let me just weasel my non-portuguese speaking nose into your way. american coming though!! yeah i want this counter...give me all your eggs. I know how to say food stuffs, of all portuguese words, food i am the most savvy of. But when i do not know: wave my hand around--that means spoon. this thumb gesture means bowl. and this exotic parrot like squaking means did you see the presidents speach on the news last night? in reality it probably means throw a 90 mile an hour curve ball on the inside of the plate, but nobody's the wiser. When they point and get something right, i clap. when it's wrong, i scrunch my face and stick my tongue. i am a monkey in the jungle. clap and dance monkey dance! It is so much easier to communicate with D...well somehow it worked out. biscotti in the 5 year old sous-chef clinging to my side with glazed almond eyes--children are so much easier for me to speak with. they do not judge. I was at most ease speaking French with Florielle, i need to find a baby Brasilian to teach me. The trouble arose when the biscuits were done, and ready to be dressed.

I found melt able chocolate at the supermarket, and rigged up a double-boiler to get the job done. damn it. too hot too fast, the white chocolate is ruined in the chalky state. Perhaps if i add some liquid--i open the fridge and grab the first thing i see; an open carton of condensed milk. that'll work. i get ready to pour it--then they start squealing. you don't want that, you want regular milk. no, no i don't. this is ok really, you don't have to open the new box of milk, it's not important. Here is the thing: i understand what they are all saying, but they do not understand anything that i say. Alien looks and they continue to chirp. damn it! it's not important! i argue as i grab back the carton--then look to the chocolate chalk. ahh, i muse, oh well, it's toast. i push the pan over to by the sink and get ready to start over. They ask me why i did that. It's ruined, i say in Enlgish to blank faces, erm, esta fini, kaput, nada--i try as i move my arms in swooping X motions...nothing....arrrrggggg ESTÁ MORTO! Ahh, they reply, but no i think you just wanted the regular milk. AHHH! No i don't want the milk! I yell as i pull my hair with both hands. It will not fix it! I start jumping--my favorite form of sign language. Usually calm and collected knowing she is the foreigner who cannot speak the language--but four against one in my setting, is painful. i try to pull every portugese word i know that might get the meaning accross. nothing. vacant stares. Then all at the same time they start yelling oi aiiia where's Henrique, get him we need our translator! Henrique Henrique help! I throw my arms up, AHK!! NO! I don't need him! I yell in Portugue-lish. And then start laughing. Trigger effect. The room bursts to laughs, and i am covered in hugs. White chocolate is always harder to melt than dark, one women starts to tell me. we forgot about the white and moved straight to the dark. My little sous-chef was happy enough to take care of the white chocolate chalk for me. Two spoons please.

The biscotti turned out...and turned a success. The food was fantastic, the guests were surprisingly those who we had seen the first night at the Bible group. Life comes full circle. Biscotti crisis avoided. Salty Cod: 1 Tower of Babel: 0.

The sun was peaking over the cargo ships as we left the next morning to return home. I have never had such a wonderful vacation in all of my oh-so-extensive 23 years of life (stop laughing). The ride home was long, as we chose to make it longer by making a detour to the São Paulo sea shore first. What's ten hours in a car anyways if you've the right person to play twenty questions with...i was up to 70 questions and still couldn't guess "car engine." He however took only three to guess "my bed." maybe a bit ty ty... I will say though, the next time we go south--we're taking a plane damn it!

a bientot

Monday, June 15, 2009

We've Got Ourselves a Two Year Old Here

Feliz Aniversário My Darling Salty

Can you beleive we've made it two whole years. Mallory is a phase girl; obsessive, impulsive, over enthused--i've been called it all. But the Salty Cod is proving to be something much more than a phase. What exactly we are not sure of yet. But we know Salty will keep swimming.

I am triste to say that due to the ten hours spent in a car today--there is no birthday cake for Salty. A 5-day vacation to the southern Brasilian beach coast was his present instead. Oh how terrible right!

Salty was born a few months before we moved to Paris--after a year he survived the city of lights and returned to Spokane. Less than a year later--and that cod fish has led us to Brasil. And we can not imagine anywhere else we would rather be. Especially for our birthday.

Two Years Young!

a bientot

Monday, June 8, 2009

Avocados and Lemons - Abacates e Limões

Oi Kaitles! Feliz Aniversário! This is becoming a pattern...

Avocados are fruits. Wait--what? I doubled back as i looked at the blender that began as a sweet apple smoothie but finished as apple guacamole. Avocados and apples in a milkshake? My face twisted up. You eat avocados sweet? I mumbled more stream of consciousness than actual question. They are a fruit, how else do you eat a fruit? H laughed later when i confessed my bewilderment. Well, i said, in the US they are a vegetable. A vegetable!? A surprise to all. But when I took a sip--the angels in heaven smiled down upon me. holy shit. holy shit this is good. this is really good. I have found my new favorite food, you know the one that is orgasmic. Avocado and apple milkshakes. Abacate e maçã. Ahhhhhhh. But, i continued, i never would have thought to blend it. D answered simply with oh, well, in brasil we just blend and juice everything. A liquid diet? S are you hearing this? excellent. And now i have avocados on the mind. on y va.

Saturday was homework day. Fifteen bloody international commerce questions worth. But wait Mal, we thought you just graduated? What are you doing researching importation agreements at the wto website? Whereas I decided that 19 years of straight schooling was enough, my editor is still taking classes as post graduate work, what we call masters. How can someone work 45 hours a week and still take friday night classes? a crazy person that's who. But we here at the Salty Cod cater sympathy toward crazies, often being considered one ourselves, so we try to help. No wait--we insist on helping. Well i can't write in Portuguese, but i know how to research. I know all too well the classic saturday spent in bed with papers strewn everywhere waiting to be organized into an essay. But though it is a pain in the neck to be stuck inside when the sun is out coolly shining on one of the two days he's finally home, for some reason i didn't mind. i-tunes on shuffle, pajamas all day...the only two distractions being the continual mallory act of hey look at this photo, and that bloody Brasil versus Paraguay Uruguay soccer game--mal, please please please can i go watch just the first ten minutes? ten little teeny minutes? What am i a slave driver now? I will embarrass him yet further by stating that out of appreciation for the unnecessary seeking of permission--i humanitarianly gave up the minutes; which rounded up more towards an entire first half, but meh. Brasil won 4-0 by the way. But look how lucky i am; three perfect saturdays in a row. Viu? Well once i grew tired of pretending to write bullshit about things i really had no clue about, i reached for my cake drawing book--time to draw birthday treats for Kaitles for her 19th on monday...but what to make...

Last year on this day we made this pretty lady a chestnut cream mousse for her birthday. She was in Seattle, and the mousse was in France. this is becoming a pattern. Kaitles your cakes are in Brasil, though we eat them with wishes for your health, happiness, and good fortune! did i just quote a Chinese fortune cookie? maybe. These are called Kaitle cakes. Avocados still on my mind...i originally was thinking of small orange tea cakes with candied orange peel, so i ask H, what do you think of avocado and orange together? he replies, sounds fine, after all i usually eat avocados mashed up with lemon and sugar. Really? hmmmm brilliant! Avocado lemon cakes with chocolate avocado cream, lemon cream, and candied lemon peel. Kaitle Cakes born in Brasil. Next year i will make for her 20th a pot of rice pudding in Tibet. Last year we did your birthday at TarTar's little apartment in Paris, with a chorus of "joyeux anniversaire Kaitlin!" and now--in a Brasilian kitchen to a chorus of "feliz aniversario Kaitlin!" What fun indeed.

There are two butter creams for the cake: a chocolate avocado, and just a simple lemon. For this, obviously, i needed a whisk, and powdered sugar. a whisk...why can't we find a bloody whisk! and powdered sugar, how am i supposed to find this when i can't even explain it to anyone! Ah the challenge! I accept. We went to a paper store to get cupcake wrappers, and well well well what do you know, this store turned out to be a Michaels equivalent, and down one very chic candy making aisle held the solution to my quandaries: not only powdered sugar, but an excessively large quantity of cocoa powder (yes finally something other than chocolate milk mix!) and a costco-size bag of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips! Two days ago i couldn't even find a chocolate bar to cut up. To quote the words of some new friends--successsss. We then decided to skip the market and go to Carrefour. yessss. Do you think i am evil? I must say that i did in fact miss Carrefour, i won't lie, i did most of my grocery shopping at carrefour whilst i lived in Paris. It was good to be back. But--i knew, if anywhere a whisk was to be found, it would be carrefour. Sure enough---successsss. Since we happened to already be in the location, i thought, ah why not pick up a few things for the thai food i was going to make for dinner. Erm. I had almost everything on my list written in Portuguese except the meat. Not a problem, i know how to talk about meat. Carne. So i say to D, e agora, carne--mas, frango ou peixe, um ou outro...não dois. Which means in some disturbing primal form of Portuguese, now we need meat, chicken or fish, one or the other, but not both. I have a very terrible pronunciation, and she could not understand my words for chicken. No problem, i am experienced in situations like these: i turn to her and cluck and jump around next to the bucket of tamarind the grocery atendant presently led us to. He was quite ammused i must add. Grocery shopping is quite fun, and we eventually got the chicken. So. Successsss. Last thing i needed was corn syrup; i tried to explain it as liquid sugar, but no one in the entire store had a clue. So. Não Successsss. Can't win every time. We've enough to make hundred cakes though, so não importante!

Kaitle Cakes: makes 10 cupcakes
Lemon sponge cakes:
ingredients: 1 cup flour ~ 1 tsp of something that will rise (i am not entirely sure what this little jar is in the fridge. but meh, it works) ~ 2 tbsps fresh squeezed lemon juice ~ 2 eggs ~ 3/4 cup granulated (now i see the importance of the word granulated) sugar ~ 3/4 cup milk ~ 1/2 cup smashed avocado ~ pinch of salt

method: scald milk and avocado (if you want, run it through a blender before scalding) set aside. 2) mix the dry ingredients together, and beat egg yolks with sugar. 3) combine the sugary eggs, milk, and lemon juice. add to flour mixture, combine, and divide into 10 paper cupcakes (i didn't even use a cupcake pan, just wrappers on a tray, and it worked!) bake until they are done. I have no idea what temperature this oven is. it is gas and there are no gauges.

butter creams: cocoa powder + butter + avocado + milk + powdered sugar. lemon butter cream: lemon juice + powdered sugar + butter.

candied peels: cut off the skin of a lemon, boil for five minutes in water, add a lot of sugar, and boil until translucent. roll in sugar when cool.

I am sorry i missed your birthday again, but you see i never actually miss it. And this way, many many more people get to celebrate your birth than you ever could have possibly imagined! Creepy? well yes. but that's ok. Homework stained pajama Saturdays are ok. Sunday strolls in graveyards and parks are ok. Monday night birthday cakes for a sister a million miles away are ok. Happy birthday Kaitles, i drank a strawberry caipirinha in your honor. Beijos!

a bientot

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's a Cake

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.

a bientot