11.13.2010 - 11.23.2010
It certainly feels good to be home. Aside from what I am confronted with right now, no job, living with my parents, and having no real assurance of what is going to happen to us in the next few months, I am happy to be here. This is the toughest blog entry to write so far because of what has happened over the past few days, our hopes for the future, and of course a bit of a recap of our whole trip. I wanted to write all day yesterday, but there never seemed to be the right time, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mental state to do it, and by the time I finally decided to start, I was so exhausted that nothing would come out. So I guess a bit of jetlag at 6 am after arriving home at 1 am from 24 hours of straight travelling is the best time to start! So here goes… Part 1!
I love going to Brazil. This was my fifth visit and my third time to Flavia’s hometown of Itapejara d’Oeste, and each time even with little to do, the days pass quickly, we are welcomed into so many homes, and life rolls at such a nice pace. Over the weekend, we headed to Flavia’s family’s small lake house on Lake Iguassu, an hour drive from their home. It was nice to get away from the craziness of extended family dinners for a few nights and really just hang out with Flavia’s mom, dad, brother and his girlfriend. As usual there was a lot of beer and BBQ, and I also found my “in” to the hearts of Brazilians. This was the second time I’ve cooked French Toast for Brazilians, who by the way love sweets, and the word of my weird American breakfast has spread far and wide, and the requests seemed to pour in and everyone wanted to know exactly how I made that delicious concoction. While there, I tried to read as much as possible, and I got the opportunity to do a bit of fishing, a weird craving I’ve been having for a bit, although I didn’t catch anything. Lake Iguassu has an interesting feel. It’s mostly weekend homes and as many of the more affluent families are originally from the south of Brazil, there is this feeling of Gaucho (people from the Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul) culture. The people are more fare skinned here, and from every house comes the terribly redundant country music called “Sertaneja”. This music sings of cowboys, loss, love, girls, and food.
The days moved surprisingly fast after the weekend. I spent a morning with Flavia’s aunt and learned how to make Tortè, homemade pumpkin stuffed pasta with a red chicken sauce. It’s Flavia’s favorite and is so amazingly good that I had to take the recipe home with me, but then again all the food we get here is great. I find that of all the travelling we do, Brazilian’s really know how to fill a table with an abundance of good food, and no lunch is ever just thrown together. The influence of Italian, German, and Brazilian traditions in the south have created so many great inadvertent fusions and the abundance and quality of fruit, produce, and meat allow Brazilians to really create amazing food. I find that tradition does overwhelm creativity a bit here. I think that many Brazilians are a bit timid when it comes to trying new food, and many have a long list of things they don’t eat. This kind of stems from the close knit family culture where some children are over mothered, and I would like to see an advance in the culinary world similar to what we have with Gastropubs. The idea of really eating A La Carte food is still a bit foreign outside of Sao Paulo and Rio. Instead most restaurants are buffets, por quilo (where you pay by the weight of your food), Rodizio (an all you can eat with servers bringing around food, especially popular for pizza or sushi) or the all mighty Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse). There does seem to be a growing demand, and I was asked to cook a few times while here, which I took as a great sign of respect, and people seemed very interested in the way that I cooked and my liberal use of fresh spices and other ingredients that may be a bit foreign to them.
I think the main purpose of going to Itapejara is family, and it’s always tough to say goodbye to them when we leave. It’s such an exhausting trip to get to the town that it’s well known that we can’t come more than once a year. For Flavia, it’s always most difficult to say goodbye to her Grandma. I had a good time with Nona, I like to talk to her and find out the interesting history of the Brazilians and especially her family. Stories seem so different when told from her lips. She was from a family of 14 children, and her and Flavia’s Grandfather, who died in a car accident about 20 years ago, were the first family to pick up and move from the south and settle in this lush forested area surrounded by rivers. Flavia’s mom had 8 brothers and sisters, and her dad had 7, and this sort of huge family, and the stories of how the town grew and the way that a town was constructed really fascinates me. We left for Curitiba on the midnight bed bus, and slept very well for most of the eight hour trip. We then went back to Fiavia’s aunt and uncle’s house and rested for pretty much he last time before the weekend. After this we were busy for all but about four hours each night, when we slept! We spent one night at our friend’s place, where I was asked to prepare Mexican food, so I did! We woke up and went to lunch at another Aunt’s place and then showered, changed and rushed to see a Vale Tudo tournament, which I’ve wanted to see for years. Most of you know how much I like Mixed Martial Arts fighting, a combination of many fighting styles but best known for Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Curitiba is the center of Brazil’s fight schools, since they have a bit more money and can produce world class fighters (two Curitiban fighter hold belts right now in the UFC). It was fun to watch the event with a packed crowd and see some fighters who may be coming to the US soon. We spent a few hours after the fight with some other friends and made it home just before sunrise.
As I awoke on the final day I was presented with the challenge of cooking lunch for 18 of Flavia’s family members. I’ve never really cooked for that many people (not BBQ) and was a bit nervous and a bit overwhelmed. I prepared Congrio, a type of fish, with capers and mushrooms, as well as some pasta with a creamy shrimp sauce and everyone seemed to like it, so I guess things went well. We found everyone asking us when we are going to move back to Brazil, and we don’t really have an answer. We would love to live there but just don’t know what we would do, although everyone tells us that we should open a restaurant. Now that we’re home we know that we have at least five years or so before we would be in the position to make any drastic changes in our lives, so we’ve had to ask them to be satisfied with knowing that we’ll be there in 2012 for Flavia’s Grandma’s 90th birthday when probably 200 or so relatives will come to town. We will also be going in 2014 for the World Cup. Brazil always welcomes us with open arms and leaves us with tears in our eyes. This time is was also the last stop on our amazing trip around the world, and a great way to end it indeed. This is only part one of my last blog entry series, and I will write in a few days to talk about my feeling of coming home and also try to make a bit of a conclusion about our trip.