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


Nina said...

wow what a blend of ideas and discourse. sad but true on language schools.... even private schools don't pay that much around us, you need to go to schools like Graded in Sao Paulo. My school pays by hour and the owner actually has two school right to two different exits of Unicamp. But congrats on the man's job!!!

Unknown said...

Poor pups :(

But yes, a big congrats on the photography gig! That sounds amazing! Reading your blog makes me happy Miss Mallory, but it also makes me miss you and rather hungry...

Love ya and hope things keep going well in 2011!

analisems said...

Hi Mallory!
I discovered your blog awhile back through my dear friend Corin. Very much appreciate this 'banana republic' post, and THANK YOU for providing links to support the flood victims! I've had a hard time finding a way to donate online from the US.

Keep on keepin' on.

Fiona said...

Always a pleasure reading your blog entries. I love your meandering style. It started out with bananas and ended with dogs but you pulled everything together into a cohesive unit! Many congrats on the photography gig.

Jim said...

Big congrats on the photography gig. When I worked at an English language school I felt like a day care worker, but got paid even less.

My banana bread gets great reviews from the neighbors with whom I share it. It is certainly referred to as a bolo. There are some quick breads at the local boutique grocery, coming out of their in-store bakery: chocolate and some kind of "plain" (?)

Also - I have found myself explaining repeatedly to my freinds and family back in the states that Rio de Janeiro, where I sort of live is a city and Rio de Janeiro in which there are mountain towns experiencing a catastrophe is a state (you know, like New York, NY).

Brynn said...

Congrats on both the jobs! Anything that gets you out of the house and making money (even if it's next to nothing) is a huge first step. It all helps build a resume with work experience in Brazil.

Also, I'm so glad you wrote about Brazilians love for their dogs. If had seen those ignorant I would have been furious too because I find Brazilians to be dog crazy people. At least Cariocas. I thought Americans were obsessed with their dogs but I have never seen dogs accessorized like I have in Rio.

My only complaint is that they seem equally obsessed with preserving their dogs' masculinity. As a daughter of a vet, I firmly believe if the dog is not showing or breeding it needs to be neutered. I see more dog testicals in one weekend in Rio than I have in my life in the US. (Ok, I'm stepping off of my soapbox now.)

Congrats again on the jobs!

Mallory Elise said...

Thanks everyone!
Jim- isn't it strange how there are so many bananas and nobody thought to put them in bread/bolo? last night i gave a piece to my mil and she said, ooh! banana! ahk. i bet your recipes is great, and comes out best because of your pretty shiny Kitchenaid :) (yesss still want one sooo baaaddd)

Brynn- I didn't take the French job!! crazy i know but i am too proud for that, i would rather be at a public high school volunteering. Actually, im working on an english gig right now, so far 5 students and an empty psychology clinic at night my hope is to steel all of the students in the city and make these jerk-off chains go bank rupt. mwuahaha. no not really :P also--YES! WHY dont people neuter cats and nogs!!? my husband was so surprised that my parents' three dogs and cats were, he said oh poor thing, nooo it helps the population. there needs to be an educational campaign about that here, it would help so much.

Fayzle- the hunger will be gone in June. im thinking backyard clam bake with smoked salmon and a crazy french dessert table :D

Analise- I know who you are! thanks for stopping by :)

Nani said...

Hi Mallory!!! I was so happy to see you posted!

Well, first of all, congrats on the Photography Job, it's great when you can find a job that is exactly what you like to do, specially in a foreign country, like you said!

Second, I absolutely loved the way you put the way Brazilians are into words. Brazilians have the incredible tendency to help people in need when things like this happens. And yes, we love dogs, and we care for them even if they are not ours. I thought what you wrote about it was great!

Third... We actually DO a lot of meals with Bananas in Brazil, specially Cakes, we are just not familiar witht the American Style Banana Bread. My family in Brazil bakes wonderful banana cakes, many different kinds, and there is also the "bolinhos de chuva", they are little doughnuts with bananas inside, fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar... oh my goodness, I miss that (even though I usually don't eat fried stuff).

And, last but not least, this Banana Bread looks so tempting, I am going to copy this recipe because Bryan loves banana bread, specially if it's gluten free and healthier than regular kinds...
Oh, I almost forgot, Bryan has a recipe of a Banana Cookie he found online that is also gluten free. I believe the banana is what gives it the "attachment". It's awesome! I will find it (when we finally move into the rental home) and I will email it to you so you can try!

Congrats on the job and friends again!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I stumbled across your blog and am intrigued with the way you write... The little taste of your world that I got from your post is very fragrant, colorful and uncharted to me. I hope to read more in the future!

Congratulations on the photo gig! I hope there will be many more for you in the future, your photos are beautiful!

The thought that brazilians don't love their dogs has never crossed my mind (and I am american) But now I know if I ever hear that stereotype I can set someone straight, thanks!

Good luck with your future endeavors!


Dear Mallory,

I am so sorry for the silence; Pedro had a cold and my grandmother past away. Thank you for your comment on my blog. It is just a hobby, not to be taken so serious: if its just tips for friends. I loved your blog and you pics!! So Amazing!!!!
I hope we will keep in touch! If you come to Rio de Janeiro, let me known.


Christy said...

Brava!! I applaud you for sticking up for Brazilians, esp. for the stereotype that people in underdeveloped countries don't value dogs (or animals) as much as people in developed nations. True, there are cases of animal abuse and cruelty in developing worlds, but I have also seen news of horrific abuse of dogs and animals in Australia. It all comes back to the person.

I actually read the other day about the dog who was sitting beside a grave on the news; it wasn't that he was abandoned and no one wanted him---it was that he refused to leave his owner's grave site after she was buried. I think that says a lot about their relationship.

On a last and equally important note, congratulations on taking your first step in securing a photo assignment!! Woohoo!!

Claire said...

Eh ben ma mom elle aime pas les bananes. L'idée de banane lui donne la chair de poule. Moi pas, comme quoi ce n'est pas génétique. Ouf.

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