Since it is Sunday and I should be working on a translation I have to deliver to a client, the obvious course of action is to reflect instead on the nuances of the Brazilian kitchen. Food is food is food, but also it’s just not the same down here when you’re cooking. Here are some observations:
- Somehow Brazilians generally think that you only need one real meal a day. Meal consisting of a meat (delicious), starch (rice and beans!), and maybe a vegetable or salad (anemic). Also, sandwiches are not considered meals here. It’s not uncommon to hear something along the lines of: “Oh, I had lunch, so tonight I won’t have a meal–I’ll just have a sandwich. Maybe some fruit.” I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my mind around it.
- The pressure cooker is used a lot here. Originally popular because it saved gas costs when cooking beans and tougher cuts of meat, it has pretty much remained ubiquitous in the Brazilian kitchen. I’m not sure why it’s not more popular in the states, to be honest; I am becoming a fan. It makes cooking oxtail, for example, a much less daunting, time-consuming task.
- Kitchen hygiene is a lot more meticulous. The kitchen trash is generally a tiny receptacle on the counter, which means you have to keep emptying it forever and ever and that is all you ever do in the kitchen. It feels like, anyway. The sink gets squeegeed out and the food bits get put in the aforementioned tiny wastebasket. Dishes get pre-soaped and scrubbed, sit on the counter a little, and then get rinsed. When you think about conservation of resources, this makes a lot more sense. There is a weird tension between wasting certain resources (food, for example, gets thrown out alarmingly quickly here; my roommate wanted to throw out my half a roast chicken that had been in the fridge for, I swear, three days) and conserving others (water, gas–and rightfully so).
- If you want to dice an onion, you hack into it multiple times with a knife, and then you cut it. Voila. I do not do this for fear of cutting off a finger. If you, however, are more adventurous, this could be an interesting method for you to try.
- Mushrooms here are small, bland, and yellow, and they come in a brine in little glass jars. They’re also kind of rubbery. Two of my three roommates LOVE them, and I don’t get it.
- I was never a huge fan of tropical fruit (pineapples, mango, papaya) until I came down here. Tropical fruit is so much better in a climate where it grows a bit more naturally. I am obsessed with pineapple–this is new–to the point where I am actually very good at cutting them up. Fun fact: in Portuguese, “to un-peel a pineapple” means to solve a difficult problem. I also put mango in my morning oatmeal.
- In the spirit of not wasting any food, I am in the middle of making chicken stock from that same roast chicken that my roommate wanted to throw away. This is generally being regarded as a curiosity, but I have a few recipes I want to try that call for broth, and I cannot resign myself to using the mix-with-water kind that also doubles as soup. Dude, the horrors. I still can’t get over the contradiction of terms: so many old ways still being employed in the kitchen, but when you want to make tomato sauce for your pasta, you open a plastic package of sauce, throw in some fresh onion and tomato, heat it up, and you’re good to go. This is not to criticize; this is just how it is in the apartment. But it’s interesting–wait for it–food for thought. Yeah, I did that. When I move in the new year, I will be setting up an herb [and hopefully vegetable] garden, so I guess a lot of this stuff is on my mind right now.
- My roommates seem to think it’s unbearably weird to use celery in things. “Seriously, you’re putting celery in your juice?” “What is that weird smell? Oh, celery? What do you even use celery for?” “You’re putting celery in your chicken stock? Why do you want to do that?” No love for poor celery over here. Needless to say, the Cajun Holy Trinity (celery, carrots, and onions) is not a major force in Brazilian gastronomy.
Essentially, I think that’s all I have for now. I always think of these things when I am cooking and forget them afterwards. Gonna go check on my stock, which is in the pressure cooker.