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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wedding Photography

My First Wedding

So it's been a long time. May, June and July. Yikes. i suppose that means i'm not a real blogger anymore. I guess life happens to everyone. In June this blog turned 4 years old; the midlife crisis age in the blog world. In July this photographer turned 25 years old; the quarter century crisis age in the human world. Unfortunately i must report that i am not experiencing any crisis. No, the only crisis i experience on a daily basis is readjusting back into life in Brazil. I took my first trip back to the US in June. Three weeks visiting my family, three small weeks after nearly 18 months away. It was nice. On top of it all what made it even nicer was the culminating event i spent the last year preparing myself for--my first wedding photography job. Not meaning to exagerate, but photographing your first wedding is painful in preparation. If you have ever dreamt of entering the competitive field of wedding photography then you have probably spent mindless hours (days) browsing the web looking for advice, inspiration and other encouraging words from the professionals in the field. And if so, then chances are you didn't find any. One of the strangest things i came across during my study (yes, i consider it a study as i did it everyday) was the resentment from professional photographers toward new ones. Comment after comment on chat and message boards warning newbies to "go home and let the pros do the wedding, do you really want to be responsible for ruining such a special event?" Fortunately there are some very kind and helpful people in the business who stand out from these jealous old timers who actually do encourage and help. So my idea going into my first wedding was, well, he's right, i could mess the whole thing up. But on the other hand, we all have to start somewhere don't we? I also got pretty lucky on the fact that i not only got a beautiful couple for my first gig but also a beautiful setting. The backdrop was so stunning that you would have to be one fool of a photographer to mess it up.

I think it went pretty well. And my 25 year old spine was ready for the chiropractor by 10pm. The day started with the prep shots at the salon. The bride and bridemaides had rented out the whole salon for their hair and makeup. Unfortunatley the salon thought only two employees were necessary and the event took around four hours. By the time we got out of there and back up to the spa (wedding location) a bit of chaos errupted. The bride and groom are serious diy'ers (which showed in the delightful personal quality of the whole event) and so things were running behind schedule, including the cakes. As the wedding party scrambled to get the final details arranged, i found myself aiding the mother of the bride in cake decorating. yes. 7 three layer cakes needed to be assembled and decorated and there just wasn't enough time. If you know what's good for you; hire a wedding photographer who can be used in other areas as well including cake decorating, therapy and even manual labor. It all made me realize that the photographer isn't just the "artist on the scene" no-they are there as your employee and they are helping as much as anyone to get the show on the road. pretty great feeling. The fast pace of it all, the blink and you miss it. The pressure. the running. where are my shoes? Meeting the family members of both the bride and groom and having them clap you on the back with a big "oh you will do great, i can't wait to see them!" is sure to increase your nerves ten fold. The pressure helps though. Not gonna lie, as a perfectionist i loved the control. I would add a small suggestion however which probably would have helped me; EAT during the day.

The wedding took place at a lovely secluded spa in the middle of pea and wheat fields in Walla Walla, Washington, a city about four hours drive south east of Seattle. The bride and groom were not strangers to me, on the contrary the bride is my only lasting friend from those far off high school years. She was there when i got my first real camera and as my co-valedictorian (viking pride!) she knew that my obsessive perfectionism would surely result in suitable photographs. I couldn't have been happier to give her this gift (and to have done it successfully) and at the same time i am honored that she trusted me enough to give me the chance to be a wedding photographer. This has been something that has been lurking in my head for years, and i am ecstatic that it is finally ready to come out. I am now enterring the Brazilian wedding photography market in the areas of Indaiatuba, Campinas and the general São Paulo area and i couldn't be happier. i have a great way to come in photography as does every photographer, but it really does feel like a dream come true.

To view more photos of the K&J wedding, please visit my friend Rita's wedding blog at Missão Casamento where she is showcasing the photos for the Brazilian audience. For any information on my photography services, please email me at mallory (dot) f (dot) ramos at gmail or visit my photography website at Estou uma fotógrafa de casamento!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

and a vacation to Ilhabela-SP

While i had planned on being part of an Easter celebration this year with eggs, chocolates and bunnies, a sort of last minute vacation got in the way. Thank god. Two weeks before the long four day weekend of Tiradentes (a holiday that celebrates a national revolutionary hero, Tiradentes, who was among the first martyrs for the cause of Brazilian independence from Portugal) that happened to fall the day before Good Friday, H and i decided to go to the beach. If you know anything about the state of São Paulo then you know that is a suicide mission. National holiday weekends on the São Paulo seashore are nightmares. Every human with the means to leave the concrete jungle will. not to mention the rest of us in the heading to the seashore with half a million cars. Brilliant! Somehow we managed to plan the trip strategically though; we left a day before the holiday started and chose a destination that while popular, is not among the destinations of the majority. Ilhabela is an Island just south of the São Paulo coast (you can see it clearly from the city of São Sebastião) and requires a ride on a small flat deck ferry to access. The long drive, ferry and extremely inflated prices of lodging, food and virtually everything on the island does not attract as many people as say the bigger and more affordable destinations such as Santos or Praia Grande. So while there were many visitors to the island during the weekend, it was nothing like Copacabana. Only a few of the island's beaches were crowded beyond our liking (we could never, ever be a carioca when the beaches turn into sheep farms.) While we did wake up at 2:30 on Sunday morning to avoid the five hour ferry wait and seven hour traffic crawl on the continet, the vacation was a wonderful decision and i didn't miss Easter at all. I can say that i have been to paradise, can you?

I really didn't take many photos while on vacation, there's something about just wanting to sit in your plastic yellow Skol chair and not do anything. at all. Well, anything other than drinking caipirinhas, rubbing on bug repellent (Ilhabela is known as mosquito Isle, and i'm still itching) and randomly getting up to jump in the deliciously blue water for a swim. We explored the island, sized up the beaches, trecked through a monkey trail for an hour to get to a hidden waterfall for an icy (dangerously slippery) swim, but in the end there was only one beach where we really wanted be--Praia do Jabaquara. The first day on the island i grabbed a map and decided that i wanted to go to Jabaquara only because it was the very last beach on the circuit that you can get to by car. All of the beaches on the eastern side of the island are only accessible by boat or by a guided jeep offroading expedition. So we drove, and drove and drove. It really is the last destination on the circuit. The drive is about an hour of long and ends on a bumpy, dangerous, dusty rock-filled dirt road that hugs the cliff on the northern side of the island. You really feel like you are never going to get there...witnessed a few cars giving up and turning around...if you are brave enough to scale the monkey trail then you end up at paradise. The beach is secluded, away from cars, roads, everything. And the distance and terrifying drive keeps the number of beach goers way down. White sand, a bar, trees, chairs and open ocean. The chairs and umbrellas belong to the only restaurant/bar on the beach, so if you sit you have to order. But it's well worth it, not just for the shade and seats but for the bathroom and shower. Buy a few drinks but bring a few of your own as well.

We liked Jabaquara so much that on the fourth day we gave up looking for another beach and just headed back with fresh fruit and a bottle of wine in tow. We did end up losing our licence plate on the difficult terrain, but that's ok. Ilhabela was truly the perfect vacation fo us. H and i are travelers and we hadn't been anywhere since Rio in July. 2011 has been extremely busy for both of us; H started a new job and continues his post grad classes and I jumped into language teaching which has taken off a lot faster than i expected. Throw in my photography and housework (yes, i consider housework a job) and it sounds like we're on turbo. I mean, i haven't even been blogging! We're too young to not slow down and do something crazy every once in a while. A little fresh perspective is helping to refuel my Salty motiviation.

We spent most of Easter in the car (from 2:30am-11am) after which we indulged in a very long nap. I realized onlythe day after Easter that neither of us had had an ounce of chocolate. sad. So last night i took out the giant 2.5 kilo bar of baking chocolate at about 9pm and could only think of doing something simple; cookies. I'm not terribly good at baking gluten free cookies, i've gotten my hand in on cakes, pizza doughs and quick breads, but my cookies always disapoint because they end up too crumbly. Tried anyway and threw in a banana in hopes that it might be sticky enough to keep the things together. They were still a bit crumbly, but once cooled they seemed like normal cookies... not something that i would really want to blog about though.

On monday we eat dinner at about 11pm because that's when H gets home. After the fire breathing curry i made for dinner, i shuffled a plate of hot cookies over to the couch. To my surprise, H was giddy; "cookies! you haven't made cookies in forever!" i suppose i haven't, and i suppose i haven't actually baked anything for us in forever either. No desserts in months. We eat no sugar! I was wondering why we were getting so skinny. I love to bake and we love to eat baked things yet i let them dry up. So like with needing vacations, i realized that we both need Salty so we can have a few sweets at least once a month! After coming to this conclusion the cookies seemed so much more regal to me; a cookie, a chocolate chip cookie. Nevermind that it has no butter and is made with whole soy, rice and quinoa flours, it still has chocolate in it. So here it is, on the blog. Nothing special yet it's what shoved me back in finally.

Having the cookies around also led to another excuse for photographing them; to try out my new lens. I shot these with my first ever prime lens, nothing special-i can't afford special, but all were taken with my new 50mm 1.8. If you don't know what a prime lens is it is simply a lens that cannot zoom; it only has one focal length. There are many advantages to a prime lense (quality advantages if you can't afford top zoom lenses like me) but also i needed something with a wider aperture. So lo and behold! $135 on Amazon and i only had to wait a month or two before the aunt of a friend in SP came for a visit from the US. Yes, that's how we buy things in Brazil....

Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Tartelette)
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup soy flour
1/4 cup quinoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 banana
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil (i mixed olive and soy)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
about 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
Mix all the flours together and set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, banana, egg and vanilla together and add the flour mixture. Combine and add the chocolate. Refrigerate until stiff and form into flat disks. Do not cook round balls, this recipe doesn't flatten out very well. Let cool completely before eating or you will be in the midst of a crumbly mess. I don't have xantham gum here so binding agents are always my biggest challenge...if you have xantham gum, add 1 tsp for a better result.

Ilhabela really is a paradise. We declared it our Christmas/New Years/H's birthday/one year wedding anniversary vacation. At least that's how i see it. It's always a bit sad to go home from a vacation, leaving the hot sun (for some reason it was hotter there than farther up north...) and freedom to do whatever on a weekday is difficult. I remember crying and getting really depressed when i was a young girl every time i had to go home after a vacation at my aunt's house or a camping trip to the beach. You grow out of that but there's still a little bitterness when it's time to go home. Over the past year i've not been feeling any bitterness though, and i think it's because while i enjoyed the beach imensley, what made the trip was who i was with. I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary one month ago and i hope i never stop feeling like the luckiest girl on the planet. A friend of mine recently asked for a bit of advice about "moving in" with a boyfriend or husband- i answered with the difficulties that we all whine about, but i also mentioned that the one thing that shadows over all of the negatives is knowing that you're always either going home to someone or someone is always going home to you. Or even better--going home together to eat chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Nothing Really, Just some Chat

Yeah, feels like forever. Two months; two months is the longest i have ever gone without a post since we started nearly four years ago. Where have i been? I'm sorry to say that i've simply been right here. No crazy vacations, no getting lost in the jungle. No time, i suppose i have had time, but over all less time than before. No inspiration, no i've had quite a few delicious things sitting on my table in the past few months. What's wrong? nothing. im just not sure what kind of blog this is anymore. food blogs are starting to get really annoying, the internet seems to be suffocating with them. That doesn't mean we're done posting about food, never. Started with food will end with food. But if i have any chance of consistency, we are going to have to open the genre. And i'm starting to feel crafty.

In the past two months of Salty Cod void, i started a new chapter in my life in Brazil. work. Lots of work. I started my own language school and teach both English and French classes here in my petite ville. Who ever thought i would actually use my college degree! So i have students, lesson plans and a lot of Portuguese speaking. I teach all beginner classes in Portuguese, am i perfect in Portuguese? Hell no. So you see it is quite a challenge. English is one thing, but try teaching your second language using your third language. Quite an exercize. Next door to my new "day job" continues my photography jobs-yes i still have those. In the past few months i have been shooting for a magazine as well as a cute start up cupcake shop in Sao Paulo. On top of that, the magazine i've been working with actually let me create my own recipes. That is a first and undoubtedly is an achievement for Salty who has been making up recipes for years. Bravo us. in any case, that is the professional update.

It's April, lets forget about March shall we. We're really starting to miss pastel-style Easter. I don't know how your Easter is, but my American Easter is full of pastels, chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs and snow globes filled with delightful springy Easter motifs. The pastel Easter bonnet ham and asparagus is not exactly what we do here in Brazil. I can't remember much of Easter last year as we were in the process of moving into our house. But i believeit involved a chocolate kinder egg. yep. The Brazilian tradition is the chocolate egg rather than the chocolate bunny. Which is better? Bunny by far. I remember those cuddly chocolate bunnies in my Easter baskets from my childhood--they could be a murderous weapon if chucked in your sister's face. American chocolate bunnies are solid deadly bricks of chocolate that lasts for months, come July and you're still knawing on cottontail's midsection. In Brazil, the eggs are beautiful but are hollow. Hollow? How much did i just pay for a hollow egg? This year we are making our own eggs Martha Stewart style (filling real egg shells) as well as dyeing eggs. People don't dye eggs in Brazil. Isn't that sad? This year i'm dyeing and will make those crafty daycare style bird nest cupcakes. But how to really do Easter right without peeps, malted eggs, cadburry creams and jelly beans? insanity. We'll see how the homemade peeps turn out. Get excited.

I don't know if anyone is still out there with us, but if you are, thanks for being here. We're not dead yet, just waiting for a comeback. Now i've got to finish editing the photos of the fig, almond and olive oil financiers!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

One Year.


It's official. Today is the day of my first Braziliversary (term coined by Lindsey of Adventures of a Gringa in Brazil). One year without leaving the country; officially the longest consecutive term spent outside of the USofA. Is Brazil finally my home then? Am i a Paulista? If i'm not i pretend i am anyway. Paulista is a state of mind anyway. you'll agree when you travel state to state in this country, like mini countries thrown inside of one large gunny sack. They say (unaccredited web writers and day-job psychologists) that the first year of marriage is the most difficult. Well forget that, it's the first year of expatriatage that is. It's the marriage that saved the later! Obviously since that is the reason we are here. Either way, one year. So what is the verdict? Acclimated to the climate? Accomplish all my goals? Warm up to the wonderful humans known as Brasileiros/as? Do i do as the Romans and sigh, scratch my head and submit? Do i wear a thong on the beach yet? I've somehow accomplished quite a few things, though it did take a while. My timeline was burned to ashes and my patience exploded around the holidays, but like everything in Brazil, the paperwork took a long time to complete. Yes i have an opinion on Brazil and yes i have an opinion on Brazilians, and no i will not wear a Brazilian bikini. Doesn't America celebrate cultural diversity with a crack melting pot theory? American bikini is my culture,so let me be you xenophobic Brazilians!

After much, or rather little self debate with a trifle facebook poll thrown in over whether to make a cake or pão de queijo for the big day (today) i sided with the cheese as we're already scheduled to produce a cake tomorrow. Why pão de queijo? I've already posted it here at Salty, about three years ago when none of you readers were with us (other than parents and B&J) so i'm posting it again. Hey, you say, don't you also have the same recipe in a certain online compilation cookbook that no one bothered to buy? why yes, yes i do. Accompanied by a dramatic story about Brazil? yes! clever you. Moving on, i have a very personal connection to pão de queijo. yes, i am connected to a cheese bread. a soft, gooey puffy cheese bread. so naturally they are an appropriate first Braziliversary treat even though we make them every week. The first time i made them was while i lived in Paris, i posted them simply to surprise and prove to a Brazilian friend of mine that yes i was listening to the 2:00am skype conversation on biscuits and Brazilian pastries...time zones. First physical proof of my cross-continent stalking (what?) abilities. Long story short, the first time i arrived in Sao Paulo, that friend picked me up from the airport and gave me a small packet of pães de queijo. Delirious from the 19 hour plane ride i let them go cold. yes i was scolded for it. Then, the first time said friend came to the US, i made homemade pão de queijo to hand him at the airport. Then when i cam back to get the picture. oh ps my friend and i got married, our love of cheese breads was too great a bond to be separately.

Another reason to post is that i am quite put off by all the "recipes" for pão de queijo i come across in foodgawker. Random recipes (by Americans, Australians, Koreans, whohaveyou) that don't even mention that they are Brazilian, and worse, recipes with wheat or corn flour mixed in, and some made into a liquidous soup in a blender, gah! what blasphemy is this? these people should be ashamed of themselves. But hey, you might say, you are no Mineira, you should shut your mouth. touché. but my buns have already been Mineiro-approved so drop your nose. Yet one more reason to post about pdq is that my father discovered them at a churrascaria in Seattle and had lovely dreams about them. Unfortunately, the ones he had were not the best. The best in the world are the ones at the Rodaviaria (central bus station) in Indaiatuba. true story. my homemade recipe comes in close after. But if you truly want the best pão de queijo, you suckas have to come to Brazil.

ingredients: 2 cups (about 250g) polvilho (cassava flour), 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 egg, cheese. try for roughly 25g cheese. you can use a mixture of any variety, even farm cheese.
Bring water, milk, oil and salt to a boil. Let cool slightly.
Add the flour and stir, it will be hot and it will be ugly.
Add the cheese (about 1/2 cup cheese, Parmesan, Provolone, mozzarella, whatever you have) and combine as best you can.
Add the egg and kneed with your hands (if not too hot) until a smooth dough is formed.
Coat hands in olive oil and roll the whole dough ball in your hands. Roll small dough balls and place either in a cupcake tin or on a parchment lined tray.
Bake for about 30 minutes at 325. Do not let the bottoms burn. The insides should be gooey but not taste like raw dough.

*if you are in the US, don't buy tapioca starch. it is not the same. it won't taste the same and the texture will be much different. look for a South American imports store or a Brazilian store (there is a shop in the U district in Seattle that sells polvilho) and look for cassava flour.
*once you're a cheese bread making master, addvariety to your buns with chopped herbs, shredded chicken, diced salami, fresh cracked pepper and even apples.

The language. So after one year with zero lesson i somehow find myself able to classify myself as a Portuguese speaker. Sure i sound like an uneducated immigrant, but i am understood and once i have a caipirinha there is no shutting me up. The Portuguese just rambles out like a falling bowl of jello. Usually there are about eight percent French words accidentally added, but who is counting. I can't write worth beans (or rice, ha!) and i am reminded of that daily, particularly when facebook "chatting" with the ten year old cousin who lives down the street. It's da, you said de, that doesn't make sense. Thank you sensei, i will try harder next time. Brazilians "type laugh" by repeating the letter "K," that has never made sense to me. K doesn't even technically exist in the Portuguese alphabet. Anyway, i know it will take many more years before i am through with the offensive mistakes, and perhaps a class on how to write. But that's ok. i leernedd how to speaky yous guys, i speaky!

Here is to a fast, furious and fabulous first year! It only gets better from here on out. There is so much of Brazil to see. While driving from SP to Belo Horizonte a few weeks ago (7 hour drive) i realized how utterly beautiful this country (well, at least Minas Gerais) is to drive through. If driving on Fernão Dias wasn't a constant truck-dash to escape imminent death, it would be quite relaxing. We'll be traveling to the north in a few weeks and i've come to realize that i have already physically experienced more variety of Brazil than i have of the US. Traveling through Brazil is like crossing ten European borders, there is so much diversity and change from one region to another that i really don't think that i will ever run out of new and exciting destinations in Brazil to experience. Digressing, for now---Rainbow caipirinhas tonight!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Banana Republic

Bread, Jobs, Dogs & Rain-because it's been a while

Table topic post warning. I live in the banana republic and yet i don't buy bananas. For the first time in one year we randomly bought bananas on the weekend. It's not that i don't like bananas, who doesn't like bananas. I just don't like fruit that can't keep in the refrigerator. After 1.5 days of sitting on the counter my thoughts were justified. Flies. I absolutely detest kitchen bugs. From little white worms in fresh peppers to small black beetles that drill perfect circles in dry beans, microscopic ants that appear everywhere out of nowhere and of course, fruit flies- kitchen bugs are terrible creatures. So three days of flies and im done. No one is eating these bananas. So i do what every American does, make banana bread.

Normally i would never post about a silly recipe like banana bread. Because, well it is silly. There are too many recipes for banana bread online, in books and in your head (im sure you already have your own). There are even already two old archive recipes of banana bread here at Salty; one here and one here, well that's not really a recipe. But damn that's old. Anyway, to my surprise, this was the first time H had ever had banana bread. Crazy Brazilians, well maybe it's just him. But quick breads (such as banana, zucchini, cranberry, etc) are not very prevalent in Brazil (do they exist? not sure.) And if they do exist, they would be referred to as a bolo (cake) and not bread. This recipe also happens to be gluten free and is surprisingly good. Usually when i bake simply for us, as in no photographs please, i don't use recipes. My gluten free things never turn out "splendid" just "alright, it's better than nothing" so i usually don't measure ingredients or take much note of what i'm doing. But this one surprised us, H could not believe that it was gluten free, mainly because it doesn't crumble and fall apart the second you look at it. A victory for recipe creation. Knocks all my gluten free cakes out of the water. Must be the banana. Banana banana.

The Salty Cod set out the new year with a goal to post "regularly," we even wrote about it in our last post. Unfortunately we have already messed that one up. This time, however, it wasn't because i was being lazy. This time, when i actually had the litte Salty Spirit to keep things fresh, good things started happening. Good things? When i say good things i mean jobs and friends. I am popular! no not really, but lately we've been busy on a social level that we're not quite used to. Parties, bars, dinners, getting lost in SP for an hour and a half (where my gps at) and of course a barbecue or two. At the same time the wine, cachaça and tequila (wha?) was flowing, i entered upon this new thing for me in Brazil, a thing called jobs. H and i both started the new year out with employment luck. H, the ambitious one who already had a really great job, started a new job at a French company; better position, higher salary, closer to home. What i started was a little different, what i started was -- my first photography assignments in Brazil! with an actual publication! It took one year but finally i made a small, yet significant "start" in what i had promised myself when i decided to become an expat and move to Brazil: i am going to go, but i am not going to give up what i want to do, even though it will be harder. Finally, i'm not a failure after all. Will show you the shots and name of publication when it comes out.

Second random job prospect was a call from a language school looking for a French teacher. Note this, they called me. After two visits, a few hours of speaking French (first time in over a year) they finally revealed the "compensation." Let us say now that language schools, unless they are fancy international private institutions, not just chain schools, are not worth any human effort. These places devalue education to the highest degree. Should a teacher make less than a barber? Not a hair dresser, a barber. So well, if i am going to volunteer as a language teacher, i might as well do it at a public high school where i am needed and not at a greedy corportate dime-a-dozen language school. Advice to expats thinking about teaching language here; rethink it, unless you are a skilled public advertiser and offer your own in-home private lessons as a self-employed teacher. My teaching dreams are dwindling. Better make banana bread.

Gluten Free Banana Bread- Pão de Banana

1 cup rice flour (white or brown)
1/2 cup polvilho doce (tapioca flour)
1.5 tsp baking powder
100 g butter (about 1 US stick or 1/2 Brazilian block)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 brown sugar
4 medium-small ripe bananas
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup ground cashews (or whatever nut)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, bananas, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour all flours and bp in (no need for separate bowl) mix the flours gently on top, then incorporate thoroughly. Stir in the nuts and fill a parchment-lined bread pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Before we shove off for today, as this has quickly become a first-person monologue post full of personal details, i want to say a word on the tragedies that have lately fallen on Brazil. As i change the tone and topic completely, i appologize. First, a thank you to all my family, friends and readers who have expressed concern over my safety (as i am in Brazil after all) I can assure you that i am completely free of harm. The areas devasted by the landslides and heavy rain are in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, an area that in geography appears a world apart from where i am in the São Paulo interior.

From this tragedy, a wave of international articles, discussion, comments and opinions have surfaced that at times is a bit unjust. Aside from the fact that many Americans apparently are unaware that Rio is in fact quite distant from the Amazon (opposite sides and corners of the country) and that natural disasters don't only happen in "poor third world" nations (waht about Katrina?), one small, insignificant comment i read on a news article somewhere made me cringe; "Oh, poor dog, people in developing countries like Brazil don't value dogs like here." This comment is in reference to a photo of a dog sitting next to a grave. Is this what people think? For some reason i can't let this go. So i must write.

There is a video of a stranded woman being rescued via rope from a rooftop as water cascades around her. This clip was shown on American news channels (so i have been told) repeatedly. The heartbreak of the video is that the woman is forced to drop her dog, Beethoven, in order to hold on to the rope and save herself. Another viral image is of a dog sitting next to a grave. These images make it very clear that the floods in Rio are not simply a human tragedy, but a tragedy for every living thing in the area. To me, these images show a clear dedication and love for dogs and animals. Brazil is full of dogs, both those in the home and on the street. There are many street dogs here, however, there are many street dogs in US as well. The only difference is that the animal catchers only come if they are called. So the homeless dogs, who after a while are not really homeless but are rather residents of the streets or parks, are never taken away. One such dog has his own house on the corner of our street. He has a small bowl and the neighbors make after-dinner donations at his small door regularly. Lack of value in dogs? Perhaps Brazilians value dogs more as they realize that if they can't afford to feed them then they shouldn't take them in. An idea that many Americans would benefit from. For those that can afford, there are pet shops, cleaners and vets on virtually every corner.

Dogs are not valued in underdeveloped countries. Tell that to the homeless man who shares his small meal with his dog. The dog is man's best friend wherever you are. They make no distinction between rich or poor and love their human companion for who they are not for their class rank or lack of shoes and in return they are loved like family, and we all know what the Brazilian family is like. This is the never ending struggle against the international stereotype, the developing third world, the banana republic. Will the world ever wake up and actually see Brazil? Maybe someday when the media shows something other than crime, death and tragedy to the world. But this nation is healing itself; the people have come to the aide of the people and volunteer forces and donations are pouring into Rio from every corner of the country. So is that developing or developed?

If you have not donated already to help the mud slide survivors (and the dogs) and wish to, there are many online websites to make donations from including The Brazil Foundation, Visão Mundial and the Sao Paulo Red Cross. If you are in Brazil, you can donate items to the rescued animal fund at Animais Desabrigandos.

a bientôt

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year

Copacomplainer? And the Year's Goals

A new year, already. 2011, Salty is getting old. Have I really already been in Brazil for one month short of a year? I'm going to miss 2010. My celebration this year was not to ring in 2011, but rather to celebrate what was 2010. Moving to Brazil, getting married, starting a different life and navigating though it. 2010 was an amazing year. 2010 was a learning year full of struggles, tears, confusion, laughter, smiles, frustration and love. And we got throught it. So if ever there was a successful year, it was 2010. Can 2011 be as good? Yeah, we think it can. 2011 is going to be the push year. 2010 was the adjustment year, and 2011 will be the push year. We know we will continue to adjust forever as long as we are in Brazil, but after a full year, a full circle around, we are a little more preapred, hardened and ready for the next year in Brazil.

2010 was an adjustment year for Salty as well. When Salty was born in 2007, he was a combination between journalistic food writing and food "discoveries" in Paris and other European cities. During the year in Paris, Salty moved slightly away from food and centered around European adventures and daily life in Paris. In other words, it was an expat and travel blog. After returning to the US, Salty mutated back into a food blog. In 2010, Salty once again altered his tone and slowly has become more personal, more "diary blog like" about my life in Brazil. That is, Salty is your average expat blog that attempts to honestly report the personal trials of life in a foreign country. The difference with Salty this time is that food is used to tell those stories through, and that is the road that Salty will be continuing down for 2011. My life, my triumphs, my hardships. Blogging is not for you, it is for me. If my writing, opinions and feelings are not to your taste, then stuble onto the next blog. There are hundreds of thousands expat and food blogs alone that you can frequent rather than mine. This being said, if you find me to be a complainer about life in Brazil, well, sometimes i am. Rarely, but sometimes. That is our disclaimer. Ninety percent of my posts are positive experiences about life in Brazil, but like life anywhere, there are some things to complain about, some things that are unpleasant and somethings that anger me, sadden me and confuse me. I will write about these things. My Brazilian Christmas was hard for me. And i will repeat the phrase that offended some; Christmas in Brazil sucked for me. What i write about in this blog applies only to me, it does not apply to you and your Brazilian family/experience. That's why you have your blog, and i have mine. So, Salty Cod 2011 is heading for a year of raw ups and downs, and we are not going to sensor it.

Our goals for 2011 are not surprising. Portuguese leads the list. Speaking Portuguese properly is the number one goal. I have improved a lot in one year. Improved meaning going from zero to intermediate level without any lessons or courses. Go me. But i need to push harder. I need to put more effort into the technical Portuguese. After Portuguese is conquering driving. I've finally learned how to drive manual transmission and in the next year will come my drivers license and city driving. After Portuguese and driving are the goals we have for every year; laugh more, smile more, love more and continue to be thankful for the wonderful life i have in Brazil. The final goal is to continue with Salty. Continue to post interesting stories and eye catching photos so that we can keep you all in our life here.

So the new year in Brazil; the second best new year's in my life. For serious. Second because nothing can surpase the bed & breakfast on the San Jaun Islands last year. We planned to go to the beach, but things came up, got in the way, too late in planning and we ended up having the casula new year with the family. But this one was pretty good even though it was nothing special. Big family gathering, but with a little less noise. Good food, good conversations, fireworks and cheap Champagne (sparkling wine) in the street, and a small, quiet New Year's morning breakfast at home with H. Perfect way to start the new years. Apricot clafoutis and lemon scones. All gluten free. My Brazilian Christmas may have been hard, but my New Year's was spectacular. As expats, we have to remind ourselves constantly why we are here. For me, i just have to look at the person next to me and i am reminded. So, 2011, bring it on. Brazil is not for beginners, but one year in, i'm not a beginner any more.

Thank you readers for your support throughout the years. Happy new year to you and your family. As always,

a bientot