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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I can't begin to describe how difficult it's been for us to rent an apartment in Sao Paulo. It, as with almost all other endeavors that involve "a paper to be signed" is as or more complicated than donating your kidney. It has been over one week since our offer on a place was accepted and no contracts have been issued. The only things that have been moving are the mountains of personal documents being schlepped into the realtor's office. At this time well over fifty documents have been sent to the realtor. personal documents. From both the renter and the renter's "financial guarantor." In this city you either get a guarantor, pay an insurance or (very seldom) are allowed to make a down payment deposit (oh how i wish). All the apartments we've been after require either the guarantor or the insurance. A guarantor must be a property owner, and my mother in law agreed to be ours. What makes me uncomfortable is how much they require from both us and the guarantors. At this moment, for all parties involved, the real estate agency now has our bank records, tax returns, property deeds, receipts from property purchases, national ID cards, social security cards, copies of everyone's national worker's records, salary statements and the list goes on and on. I wonder if i should send them our vaccination records and diplomas as well. Once again, oh "process in Brazil" you spleen me for unnecessity.  Our first guarantor (a Brazilian I might add) actually backed out of the deal after criticizing that the agencies asked too much of him in exposure. Which, i fully agree with. It is a bit excessive for simply renting. So there you have it. I know that some transactions go smoother and quicker and that perhaps we just got the unlucky stick, but one day i would just love it if some transaction/action/endeavor in Brazil actually went down without gagging us on the way!

Why are we bothering to leave the interior for Sampa anyway you may ask? Well, aside from this real estate trouble and high prices of everything, I am so eager to get my butt into Sao Paulo i can barely handle it. The place may be big, dirty and overwhelming - my favorite description of the city will always be that of Tony Bourdain; "Sao Paulo is as if Los Angeles threw up on New York." But there are so many interesting people, new foods, new opportunities, new shops, new restaurants and more museums and cultural events than i will ever have time to attend. This city is without a doubt among the most interesting in the world. I am more than ready to try and start a new entrepreneurial direction with my life and I know that Sao Paulo is the only place for me right now. That being said, nothing in Brazil comes without a good dose of frustration...

In the meantime my house is packed up (sort of), i'm out of work (should already have moved) and i am without a car (H takes my car to SP everyday now to work, we already sold his car. and we should already be living in an apartment in SP). I don't know why we thought our timeline would go smoothly in Brazil as it never does. We should know better.

Midst all the fretting, however, there have been a few milestones that i've neglected. Two days ago (February 5th) was my three year anniversary for arriving in Brazil (as a resident). That's an achievement I dare say. If i can last three years here maybe i can last four, or even five. And then of course a real call for celebration yesterday as it was H's 29th birthday. Instead of cake I made his favorite dessert-creme brulee. To make it a little fancier (not that there's anything wrong with it au-naturel) i lined the bottom of the cups with a chocolate truffle...filling. well actually it's what you would make a truffle out of so i suppose it is simply chocolate truffled creme brulee.

My recipe for creme brulee in Brazil is very simple; two boxes of creme de leite, 1/2 cup of sugar, 5 egg yolks and a dash of vanilla. I use farm eggs so my creme is a bit on the orangey side. But trust me you can tell the difference between a factory and farm egg especially in a creme brulee. As for the truffle; make your favorite truffle recipe and pour straight into the ramekins while it's still liquid. Allow the truffle to set and cool before pouring the creme mixture on top. Then just bake as usual in a bain marie in the oven. I usually cook them for 45 minutes. Refrigerate the custards for at least two hours before serving. You can broil them, but they are much better torched because then the custard and truffle remains cold. Not a big fan of hot creme.

While creme brulee is definitely one of the more simple dessert recipes of the French genre, i don't think there's anything (on my list) that tops it. While living in Paris i must have had it once or twice a week at my familiar bar à vin. The thing i loved the most was that chef would change it up every time. Sometimes it would come to me with pistachios crusting the bottom or baby blueberries (myrtilles) strewn throughout. Hazelnuts, raspberries, chestnuts, chocolate -- he would add anything. So for this i know that creme brulee is a dessert as versatile as a sandwich. It is extremely fun (and easy) to play around with to match any occasion or season your're in.

So we may be in a semi-packed up house anxious about our future, but we still managed to forget it and enjoy salmon and shitake risotto followed by a rich (maybe too rich) dessert. The real surprise of the day, however, was the half dozen roses H brought home for me, on his birthday. A very sweet surprise that I know was to encourage me to relax and deal with the real estate frustration with a grain of salt. I really want to get this apartment...and i guess at this point i am supposed to say that home is where the heart is. I know I can't complain about life. But i just think that these flowers would look so lovely in the new place! à bientot.