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

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

Wednesday, 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