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, August 26, 2010

Pumpkin Cakes for Robin Hood

house guests and apparently quite a few photos of eggs

It's been a while that we've been away (from Salty), and trust me we apologize. No excuse making today though because quite honestly i'm not sure where the inspiration or drive went these past three weeks; out the window, down the hill and into the river. There were a few things planned, and a few kitchen failures that weren't planned. Lots of undesirable work to do, and a cold to get over. I didn't even know you could get a cold in Brazil. Lucky for us, however, the winter season is just about up, a few more weeks and it's officially spring. September bringing spring; for me September always brought fall, brought school, brought leaves and cooling weather. Now September is time for the beach! The sun is out and the trees at the park are starting to sport some beautiful but albeit bizarre fruits. This change in temperature is bringing with it a change in my mood, now i feel like i'm in Brazil again.

Exciting news folks; we've been living in our house for five whole months and we are officially having our first houseguests; refugees! No not really, but they very well soon could be. The internet, blog, social networks and all that yada have brought me more friends and people i care about than i can count. Our guests this weekend we haven't actually ever met, though maybe we have depending on the definition of "meeting someone". I met Corin (i use her name because it's plastered all over her blog) by stumbling across her Brazil blog in the city of Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais--about an 8 hour drive from where i am. I love coming across other expats in Brazil, and the majority of men and women i find usually are here for the same reason as i am--married a Brazilian. However, Corin's story is quite a bit different from mine, she and her Brazilian husband are here in Brazil as exiles from the United States. Exiles? Corin is an American, Smith graduate, has lived in France, is a Fulbright Scholar with acceptance into UBC's PhD program, and she is exiled. Like Robin Hood? Sounds romantic and exciting. She technically is not the one who is exiled, her Brazilian husband who entered the United States without proper papers and remained for a significant period of time is the one exiled...for ten years. Just short of being arrested, Corin and her husband luckily escaped to Brazil where she has been building their escape pod--to Canada!

Immigration is an extremely ill-understood topic in the United States; most people know that it is an issue and that the Mexicans must be stopped before they take over the country with Latin music, Spanish speaking little girl explorers with pet monkeys, and force everyone to start eating tacos (woops, too late), but very few (very few) know anything about what immigrants have to go through to get into the land of liberty and what consequences are placed upon those that toy with the rules. Marriage to an U.S. citizen has always been the classic "Get Out of Jail" card in the immigration game, marry and get a green card, easy. Unfortunately it's not so easy. Being married to an American is only a means to getting a green card and not a green card in itself. Many immigrants who entered the country unofficially live normal lives, and from that make normal relationships. When you marry you except that to help legal status, sadly wrong again. Illegal immigrants have no rights. If caught, an illegal immigrant is deported regardless of who they are married to, whether or not they have a home, children, a yard with a white fence and a golden retriever. So what do the families of those forced to leave do? Well, they either follow or face the impossible life of staying in the U.S. alone. For this reason there are hundreds of American citizens living abroad in the world with their outlawed family members, and Corin is one of them.

I chose to move to Brazil. I keep that little cookie in my head at all times when i am flustered, screaming about injustices, angry at grocery markets, postal workers, the weather, the family everything. When youre an immigrant even the smallest things that shouldn't bother do; and my best way out of a tear-filled rant is to remember that i made this my reality because i want it. I am very much a we-make o-our-own-choice Sartre kind a person, so it's difficult to think about American exiles having to go through the same things that i am only they don't have that nugget of comfort knowing that they made the choice and planned their fate.
Many people call me brave for moving to Brazil, but exiles are yet braver. I don't now how they do it, and there are many of them. Mostly in Central and South America; Brazil, Peru, Mexico--their stories are generally unheard, however, i believe that if more Americans knew what was going on with the state of their immigration problems, they would call a little more adamantly for reform. The U.S. has that edge that many countries don't, when the people are all behind it and call for change, usually change comes. This is pretty much absent in Brazil where silence and acceptance is the cultural norm, but we'll save that for another day.

The Reason Robin Hood and Little John are visiting us for the weekend is that they are technically homeless at the moment waiting on visas (one student and one dependent of a student) from the Canadian consulate for their Sunday flight (three days from the time that i am writing this) to Vancouver. That's 1.5 days to try and get visas that have been pending for three months to issue. They bought their plane tickets and applied for visas three months ago upon recieving word that Corin was accepted into the University of British Columbia's PhD program. They packed up their appartment, sold their appliances and are flying to São Paulo three days before their flight in hope that they can secure a visa from the Canucks with pouty eyes and pretty pleases. Ballsy? Sounds like Robin Hood to me. If there is no visa, there is no flight.

When i asked her about a week ago where she would be staying in São Paulo, the answer was "I dunno yet." Again with the rogue adventurer bit. So obviously the only place then for them to stay was with us, in the country side with a full size oven. With a plan so far down to the wire it's almost underground; we have no idea how it is going to play out. Realistically all H and I can do to help is act as taxi, hotel and make as many wonderful gluten free foods and sweets (she's gluten free, imagine that, finally someone to enjoy my pizza dough of perfection) as possible. If the plan doesn't work and the Sherriff of Nottingham denies--then we'll be housing refugees. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

So, i made cakes for car snacks. Pumpkin cakes to celebrate the last week of winter. Technically i suppose these are buttercup squash muffins, however, Brazilians simply call them pumpkins. Very sweet, tiny seeds, and gluten free.

Ingrdients: 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca flour (not starch), 1 tsp baking powder, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 sugar, 1/4 cup honey, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin or squash.

Method:Boil pumpkin chunks in water until soft. Drain and mash. Cream together eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. Add flours, baking powder, and stir. Mix in the mashed pumpkin. Divide into 12 cupcake tins and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. (you can roast the seeds inside the pumpkin and sprinkle them on top before baking).

Dealing with visas, consulates, paperwork and anything that has to do with immigration is frustrating, frightening and nerve wracking even for those who follow the book and have nothing to worry about. For those who very likely could face rejection or added complications, the stress is worsened ten fold. What is most frustrating about it all is that we did this to ourselves as humans. Immigration doesn't have to be like this. This planet is so very small, how can we expect everyone to be satisfied within borders and lines? Should humans be treated as criminals along the same lines as murders, rapists, thieves and abusers simply for moving their geographical coordinant from one spot on this planet to another?

The main argument against illegal immigration is "why can't they just do it legally and get a visa?" the reason is that they can't do it legally. U.S. imigration is a severely costly endeavor designed that way so as to keep as many as possible out. Legal immigration visas, green card and the works averages from almost $2,000-$3,000 US. Apparently i can't even afford to immigrate to my own country! Those who enter illegally risk a lot, however, for many there is no other choice. For now, all i can do is write about it right? Education is the first step, as always. But i want America to get angry, or better yet the world. The world is getting smaller and smaller yet every nation is trying harder and harder to keep people out.

In spite of it all, we are determined to have a great weekend with pizzas, quiche, wine and happy hours. After all, if everything goes as planned, this is their last weekend in Brazil!

If you are interested in reading and following up on Corin's full story, visit her blog, Corin in Exile.

a bientôt


Jim said...

Thank you for taking good care of Corin and her husband. Your mini-pousada sounds five star in all respects.

Immigration struggles and injustices have been a back drop throughout Luiz and my relationship these past 11 years. While Luiz was already an American citizen when we met, the broad community of our Brazilian friends in San Francisco included every permutation of effort and obstacle to bring families together across borders.

Lucky for us, when we decided to move to Brazil (like you, we live here by choice) the law included the ability of a gay man to sponsor the permanent resident visa of his long term partner (something not legally available in the USA). No stress. Welcome to Brazil.

I sincerely hope that this is, indeed, Corin and Leo’s last weekend in Brazil. In any case, they are in good hands.

Enjoy your weekend (and the pizza)!

Mallory Elise said...

hey Jim! good idea...i've been thinking for a long time how fun it would be to run a pousada :P

I hope it's their last weekend too; i love it how every expat blogger in brasil knows all the others, we're like a family. i think that's why we try so hard to take care of each other!

hope you and Luiz are doing well!

Sierra said...

i looove the picture of the eggs and then the lone bright green accent :) heh, me and my green obsession....buuuut i want to eat these instead of staring at them lady!!! heh, send me food :)

Anonymous said...

beautiful photos!

lovelydharma said...

Hi Mallory! This is Robyn here of the defunct (for now) Lovely Dharma. Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment - I'm loving your blog for lots of reasons. What an fun great life you are leading! Also loving it as a mostly gluten free person - trying out those black bean brownies today!

That bed is, as you could probably guess, not from Brazil. A used Pottery Barn, Craig's list find, shipped down from Brooklyn along with the rest of our material lives. Finding good furniture here not made from some awful toxic MDF is hard! We ended up finding a decent marceneiro and having things made out of demolition wood.

How great that you are helping out Corin and her husband. I've been away from the blogoworld for the last year but I did read her blog a couple times. She's really making the best out of a difficult situation. Hope their visas come through.

My husband was already a citizen when we were married (he was actually sworn in 24 hours before our wedding - just a coincidence in timing). He got his green card long before things became so ugly in the US. I have been amazed at what respect and politeness I've been treated with here in Brazil by the immigration officials/Federal police. (I have a permanent residence). I do my best to remember that whenever I'm ready to tear my hair out over some frustration like horrible drivers or the price of a semi decent bottle of wine...

Anyway off to mix up those brownies!

Toasted cheese and coffee said...

mal & H thank you for making the world a little better place...


Indie.Tea said...

...Not to mention that it can take YEARS to get that paperwork pushed through the system and approved...not only paperwork but interviews, asking intimate questions about yourself and your family, and so on. And then you still might not make it.
...but I also must say, on a lighter note, that your pumpkin cakes look amazing!

Mallory Elise said...

@ sierra, i don't think customs would like to find pumpkin cakes on their table...or maybe they would :P

@ Lovely Dharma, ahhh i knew it was too good to be true! but im actually looking at bed frames now, Tok & Stok has beautiful selections but oh so out of any normal human's price range! i absolutely love Pottery Barn so i think that's why my eye caught it ;) can't believe you shipped it down here, you crazy! it was so nice having COrin and Leo here, i just wished things had turned out a little more in their favor :( hey i still can't drive yet, but you shold look for a wine called Benjamin, it's Argentine and sells between R$13-16. wonderful dry Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon!

@ dad, awww thanks :D

@ Indie Tea, yes, we all know that the likelihood of their remaining one month promise to deliver the visa is extremely low (one month to them usually means one year) but we have to stay positive and hopefull or else it's not bearable.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog!

Sonho Meu said...

Seu blog é uma delicia de se ler.
Sou brasileira que mora nos States, acompanhando o marido que conhecí a 36 anos atras.Boa sorte pra seus amigos !

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