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.

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!