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.

Monday, February 27, 2012



I know there's nobody there anymore. The hello is rhetorical. This writing is strictly for the nobody i started writing to somewhere around five years ago. It feels good to write to nobody. Salty has been dead for close to nine months. But really Salty has been dead for a year. No food. No photos. None of that jazz that got us off the floor of that baby-puke stained family room all those years ago. Why did i let it die. I don't know exactly. People have been asking me that. I have been asking myself that. Sometimes the subject is avoided; that big fat pregnant elephant in the room. Murder is not an appropriate dinner time conversation. She lost her touch. She lost her drive. Ah, she got too busy. I don't really know. Actually i do. and it's more than one answer. It was never supposed to be forever. I was only 20 years old.

Today, there are more blogs- particularly food blogs- out there than words in the english language (that number hovers somewhere around two million) and i suppose i got tired. I got tired of it all. It felt like a basketball team potluck. I had thoughts of a race for some nonexistent pay. And then there was that Twitter. There's something about that Twitter my friend... Even without the words, there was this smoky smell of a competition. of a community. Who the hell came up with that idea anyway-online community. to judge each other. Communities are for moms sitting around a church or school room floor teaching each other how to breastfeed. Communities are soccer parents figuring out who will fetch and deliver their prodigy children to their practices on any given day. Communities are for alcoholics and drug addicts learning how to live again. i made my point, and that point isn't that i'm antisocial. the point is i fell out of love with the idea of the word blog and was overcome by the fear of considering myself a stay at home (insert female associated word) who blogs to pass the time and train my camera to take as many of the exact same shots with bled-out backgrounds as everyone else who, from my point of view, popped up over night. The thing that i failed to convince myself of was that i could just ignore it all. That was murder stage one.

And now i will describe murder stage two. My disdain with the idea of being a food blogger was merely the prepping; the gagging, the blind folding, a few slaps in the face. But not murder. I was the lone gunman. And i didn't even have the guts to shoot out of mercy. I bled him slowly. and with no proper burial. I accredit my unbalanced thoughts (i won't use the word depression because unhappiness is not involved here, more of an uneasiness) to the fact that i was still a foreigner living in a foreign country. The only problem was that as two years loomed on the horizon i gave myself this brilliant idea that i no longer fit the description of out of place foreigner. After a few years, are you really still a tourist experiencing a delicacy of strange yet charming cultural differences? Do you have that excuse anymore? I thought no. Two years is enough. apparently this is now my home. No longer a tourist. and i started to see the place differently. My eye color changed from objective to subjective. Somewhere among this rubble i killed Salty. Either I thought i didn't need him anymore or maybe he didn't need me anymore. But more to the point, with my sandy colored new shade of subjective pupils, i knew i had nothing to write about my daily life in Brazil that wouldn't cause uproar, criticism and hatred. If i write what i want to write, i will be salted and dried in the cold Norwegian sun along with my dear friend. I didn't want to write about my childhood memories of cookies, or how lovely apples are on the trees in the dying light of the harvest season. I wanted to write about real things. But after a few death threats by anonymous readers for complaining about missing raspberries and street harvested blackberries (side note: if you were to ask any foreigner whether visitor or resident what they love about brazil, they will undoubtedly tell you about how friendly and open the people are) i realized that what i wanted to write about wasn't exactly what my audience wanted to read. and on top of it im a crybaby. yes. a crybaby. So, that age-old saying of if you have nothing nice to say--- to top it all, i told myself i was ready to end it. to grow up and focus on bigger things. i thought it was time. But to be honest, it wasn't.

I've been feeling out of sorts with myself for a while. Nobody really tells you how hard it is to live in a country not your own. And nobody really tells you how hard it is to live in Brazil- with an opinion. So now to wrap up this murder confession, i will expose for you the straw that broke the camel's back. Yes, one straw that made my yearning to crawl back into Salty's arms too unbearable- a discussion with an intelligent old man. I live in a small town. Small for Brazilian standards, average for American standards. In this small town it is common to run into people you know and people you wish you didn't know. As you might guess by now, the story has something to do with running into an acquaintance. at a bar. a high school teacher, no not my own (can you imagine my North Kitsap High School teachers mulling around Indaiatuba?) this was H's highschool grammar teacher, a man, who, i could tell, was very respected by H. After being invited to take a seat the trouble began. To make the story short (though, in retrospect the conversation was quite amusing) i will sum it it by saying that i would not have been one of his favorite pupils had i been lucky enough to be under his tutelage (i am positive that was the first time i have ever used that word.) In other words, the man hated the air i breathed. why. one was most likely the fact that i had an opinion. the second, that i learned only later in the conversation was that i was female. and finally, that i wouldn't accept a roast of my native language. When i meet new people, the first question is always, do you like brazil? and my answer is always, mais ou menos- more or less. is that so? yes. i will describe the things i like. and the things you don't like? those always seem to get me in trouble.

The list is not long, but it is powerful. matters of justice, matters of public safety, equality--and my favorite, solutions to these problems. you don't think about these things during your first year in another country, but as time goes by, they are more visible than the sun. and yes, i have an opinion. while this gentleman was not the first to argue with me (don't get me wrong, i love a good argument) he was the first to tell me that they didn't matter. that these problems were not for me. these were problems of his country and i needed to learn to adapt to them. at this point i pulled out a quote --as i often do when i need someone more gifted than i to help me out-- a quote by one of the most respected men in the world. and when i finished, he threw it to the ground. rubbish. i watched as he spit on the words of the world's greatest ever defender of human rights and i knew. i knew i should write whatever i wanted. Just because i don't praise something does not mean i don't love it. who wants to read a story filled with fruit baskets and coconut water. not me. but getting frustrated doesn't help. words help. photos help. food helps.

You will be happy to know that as the crybaby that i am, i did not shed one tear. Not even after being told that my Portuguese was at a "pathetic" stage for the two years that i have been here.
And so, me with my pathetic Portuguese, i have decided to return to Salty. a new Salty.

And that is the murder story. You might never forgive me, Salty might never forgive me. You might never return. Once a murderer, always a murderer. But for now, i realize i need us. Not because i can't handle a few messy conversations, but because i need more messy conversations to keep my head on straight.

A few parting notes - why the potatoes? no reason. they were in the fridge. dark. natural. boring.
And the final parting note - the scene with the teach at the bar ended quite humorously, and i think you will all agree. When we moved the conversation to food i mentioned how i love bacalhao, cod fish, and how it has an amazing history. my opposition's approach- idiot girl, cod is not a type of fish, it is a method of preservation! your teaching license, good sir, should be revoked.