Tag Archives: comestibles

kitchen observations

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.

You know you’re assimilating when…

  • You have made a long list of things that you want your mother to bring in her suitcase when she visits in May.
  • You are no longer shocked or scandalized when your friends start requesting that your mom bring things for them when she visits in May.
  • You send beijos to and receive beijos from people you haven’t even met yet.
  • You congratulate people on everything.
  • Dinner is at 10 pm at the bar next to your apartment.
  • You don’t worry about large things, like obtaining a work visa, because (1) you’ve put out the word to your Network and (2) anyway, it’s out of your hands, you’ll stay here se Deus quiser, and there’s always a jeitinho for these things.
  • Speaking of the Network: Your friend talks about needing to go to Porto Alegre for business but having no place to stay, and you realize that you have 3 or 4 people down there that you could put him in touch with.  You have never been to Porto Alegre.
  • It’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’re in your apartment wearing a sweater and clutching a mug of tea because you have the chills.
  • Portuguese is the language you speak in your free time and with your friends, and you consider English to be a job.
However, in a bid to introduce one of the more delightful American customs to Brazil, I made brunch on Sunday.  It’s funny how some things that I never really even like in the US are the things I crave here.  French toast, for example–which is what I made for brunch.  It’s simple to make and somehow much more delicious than I remember it being.  The only tricky thing is that cream as we know it apparently doesn’t exist here in Brazil.  Instead, there is nata, which is like a solidified SuperCream, somewhere in between butter and milk, and then there is creme de leite (cream of milk?), which is a liquid.  I had no idea which to get, so I threw caution to the wind and used both.*  At any rate, Rino and Gera liked it.  I am secretly harboring the ambition to make Sunday Brunch a standing-appointment-type, come-as-you-are event.  Anyway, here are some pictures of the brunch.
 
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*But wait, this gets even better: I just checked the label of the nata in the fridge, and it says that’s it’s pasteurized creme de leite.  I give up trying to understand.  (Another  sign of assimilation, I think….)

gchats I have known and loved: Kroger edition

The context: I was asked by my friend H, who is currently out of town, what I’ve been up to this week.

The explanation:

So my roommate Alix and I were running errands on Moreland the other day, and we ended up going out further than we had realized–out past Edgewood, past Morelli’s, past the Starlight Drive-In, past pretty much everything, out, barely ITP, past a really sketchy plot of land-slash-Baptist Church compound that was completely walled in.  Then I noticed the signs for the state prisons.  That explains the barbed wire, anyhow.  (And then we started speculating about FEMA jail camps.)  There was a sign for Kroger in the distance.  We dubbed it Jail Kroger, but we turned around before getting there, lest we cross 285.  (Plus, we were starting to see planes land nearby, and it just seemed too ridiculous to have wandered out to FEMA Airport Jail Camp Land for no reason.)

Let me explain that certain Krogers in Atlanta have nicknames.  I’m not sure exactly how regional Kroger is, but if you don’t know, it’s a grocery chain, and the stores are usually open 24 hours.  I grew up near the Georgia Tech Kroger, which was near both GT and the projects on the West Side before they got razed in an urban renewal effort.  The Disco Kroger is in Buckhead and is named such because of its former proximity to The Limelight, an infamous strip mall club.

And of course, I live five minutes away from Murder Kroger.  Murder Kroger is on Ponce, and I won’t insult either institution by trying to explain that mystical convergence of forces.

When we turned around, we abandoned any hope of finding the Wal-mart where Alix had to make some returns, and so we rolled into the Kroger on Moreland (between Murder Kroger and Jail Kroger) to buy some items.  For some reason, it felt right to call it Moreland Krogs.

Moreland Krogs is the best grocery store ever.  It casually stocks fatback, smoked ham hocks (because we’re in the South here), tubs of chitterlings and chicken livers, ox tails, a vast array of legit soy sauces, all different flavors of Jarritos, and a ridiculous amount of Jamaican ingredients (I am looking at you, ginger beer and jerk seasonings).  All in the regular aisles!  Collard greens were $1.  So 1171 House fridge is now full of collard greens and fatback, and the next day off work, I’ll be making some stewed greens.

Then last night I picked my mom up at the airport around 10:30.  I hadn’t had dinner, and neither had she, and for some reason I couldn’t get fried chicken out of my head.  We drove up 75 to the OK Cafe, but they had just closed, and I couldn’t think of any 24-hour restaurants (mental list goes: Majestic, WaHo, R. Thomas, The Porter’s kitchen open until 2…), and then suddenly…Kroger is open 24 hours.  Kroger has fried chicken.

We hit up the Georgia Tech Kroger for fried chicken and cheesecake, and it was divine.  The ultimate munchies run.  Two different locations in one day, clear across town, and so much win all around.  And now you too will know to ask for the nickname when I tell you I’m running out to get groceries.

So you want to live alone and not starve…

I am sitting around waiting for my crustless quiche to come out of the oven.  I recently learned how to make it, and it’s so easy that I can cook it without looking at a recipe.  So to celebrate, here is my list of off-the-top-of-my-head-without-recipe dishes (probably more for my benefit than yours):

  • Gluten-free pancakes and bacon: For every 1 egg, add 1/3 cup coconut milk and 1/3 cup of almond meal.  You can add salt if you’re my friend Monica.  Ladle batter into skillet with bacon grease or coconut oil.  Cook bacon.
  • A really bitchin’ Thai curry: It has to be amazing because I don’t even like the word “bitchin'” that much.  1-1.5 tsp curry paste, chicken broth, coconut cream, crushed tomatoes, snow peas, chicken, carrots, whatever else you want in there.  Sautee curry paste with a little water for 2 minutes or so, add some broth, then add chicken.  Cover pan with a lid.  Once chicken is cooked, add vegetables, and when it is almost done, add the coconut cream.
  • Curried [vegetable matter on hand]: Steam cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, whatever you have around, then add ghee or coconut oil to a hot skillet, throw in some curry powder and cayenne, then heat the veggies and coat with the oil/spice mix.
  • Ground bison: This sounds weird but it’s delicious: throw in a pack of ground bison meat, add tons of curry powder, paprika, and cayenne and pepper and whatever else you can find.  While it cooks, drizzle some sesame oil and sprinkle sesame seeds.  Eat out of skillet because you are starving.
  • Sweet potato fries: Cut up some sweet potatoes.  Put them on a baking tray and douse in olive oil, paprika, cayenne, curry powder.  Bake until they’re crispy.
  • Butternut squash: Cube your squash, then add olive oil liberally, sprinkle with tons of ras el hanout and salt.  Bake until soft all the way through–nothing is grosser than raw squash.
  • Steak: Easy: get steak out of packaging, drizzle in olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Cut up a clove or two of garlic and sprinkle it on, broil until it’s cooked to your satisfaction.
  • Brussels sprouts: Halve sprouts, sautee face-down in bacon/duck fat until golden brown.  Shave Parmesan over top.  Traditionally consumed while watching Criminal Minds on laptop.
  • Crustless quiche: For every one egg, add 1/3 cup of milk, cream, or both.  Shave nutmeg into mixture, whisk.  Add salt and pepper.  In your baking dish, arrange gruyere and bacon and pour egg mixture over.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 300.

So there’s nothing gourmet up there, but it’s all pretty damn healthy.  I was going into this post thinking I had maybe 4 dishes under my belt, but it turns out I can actually cook more than I thought I could.

East Village story

Friends, what beautiful weather we’re having in Atlanta these days! I love both sun and rain, and it seems we’re having both in equal measure this April. During last night’s thunderstorm, Bro was so scared that he actually hopped into the shower with me for a minute before he realized that he was going to be standing under streams of water.

Weather in New York was significantly less nice, but that didn’t stop me from walking around Brooklyn and all over Manhattan and seeing friends in the city. I somehow ended up spending a lot of time near or around the Canal Street station, but I ventured uptown to see some of my friends from college, and even further up for brunch with my friend M. I visited two of David Chang’s establishments (does that make me a Momophile?) and D and I went to Central, Owl’s Head, and High Line Parks, too. And for my birthday, I went to Peel’s with a group of old and new friends, and when we got back to Brooklyn, D’s parents surprised me with an ice cream cake. Fact: this was the first ice cream cake I’ve ever had, and it was delicious.

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patch of sunlight

p and maizee on the patio

GQMFs

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'at street level' I

SPQR

hole-in-the-wall dumpling place

cannoli

huge can of asahi superdry

waffle cart

As always, more pictures are viewable on Flickr.

Guest posting

Today I did a guest post on my limoncello over at Friends and Hammers. Check it out!

Randoms: Spring is still springing edition

So I made a playlist of all the songs I want to listen to now that it’s sunny out.  A lot of these were my main jams last spring when I was still in college.  I would sit out on the porch of my house and listen to these on my Grados and enjoy the weather.

Another bonus is that many of these songs remind me of the time when D and I were just starting to date.  Those were exciting days, to say the least.  It was the first time I was consistently cooking good meals for myself (instead of bacon, pancakes, and bacon), and we went on a lot of walks and random nighttime car trips.  Sorry to get so nostalgic here, but I really like thinking about last spring.  This spring is shaping up to be pretty epic, though, so stay tuned for that.


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Another thing that I’m jamming on and have been loving for a while now is hot water with lemon. It sounds really pointless–and gross, even–but it’s really good for clearing up your skin or when you want something hot to drink at night and you want to avoid caffeine. After a while, it even tastes delicious, I promise. I love citrus, so I may be a bit biased, but it really does work if your skin decides to act up because of the change in season. (Ahem.)

wondermug

I drink it out of a mug that I decorated back in middle school.  It is the WonderMug Of Many Colors.  If only you could see the matching saucer.  This is how Basement Dwella rolls, yo.  But seriously, hot lemon water (gotta think of a better name than that!) does wonders for everything that ails you, I am convinced.

Okay, lastly, I am listening to ‘Teenage Kicks,’ and my mom just mused, “It’s such a good song…”  Damn straight, Mommo.