Tag Archives: ‘the more you know’

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.


at street level

I am currently out of Sampa on some personal business, and to kill my nostalgia, as you could say in Portuguese (matar minha saudade), I was looking through pictures and noticed that a ton of the ones I take feature graffiti.

What we lump together under the catch-all ‘graffiti’ is actually differentiated based on intention in Portuguese.  Grafite, for example, is what we would probably call ‘street art’–i.e., there is some thought and artistry behind the piece.  Tagging, however, is known as pichação, and has a very distinct style in Sampa: vertical and spidery.  You can see both in these pictures.

Unfortunately I rarely have my camera when I happen on really good stuff–or, let’s be real, really good stuff is all over the place and I am often in a rush and forget–or else I’d have more to show.  (And in the interest of disclosure, a few of these were taken in Rio.  But not the pichação.)

I’m alive, I promise!

Hey there, I’m still alive–alive and well, acually, in Brooklin here in Sampa. I’ve only been here less than a week but it feels like so much longer already.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve (insert a colon here, since the keyboard is using has various inconveniently-broken keys)

  • learned to navigate the bus system successfully
  • scared a small child on the bus just by being a gringa who speaks Portuguese
  • likewise, learned to navigate various accents, like those from Porto Alegre (friends), Minas (the maid Francisca), and Ceara (Ma’s relatives).
  • taught myself the word for ‘bicycle lane,’ among others.  Ciclofaixa.
  • stayed out until 5 a.m. in Vila Madalena
  • been talked to at length by my neighbor, a woman named Valkyrie.  Apparently I remind her of her mother, who was Russian, because I am so pale.  I have also overheard multiple times that I am soooo branquinha e loira (pale and blonde).
  • been to not one, not two, butfour shoppings for various reasons.  Funnily enough (to me, anyway), shopping is the word for ‘mall’ in Portuguese.Shoppings seem a lot more serious here, somehow, maybe because everyone is really well-behaved and generally quieter.  Although I don’t really know why I get that feeling.
  • answered the question did I have a Brasilian boyfriend about a billion times.  Yes, I’ve had two, and no, not at the moment.  Yes, that’s how my Portuguese is so good.  Ha.
  • gone to the countryside for an all-day churrasco (barbecue).  This is the best way to spend a weekend day, if you were wondering.  I lierally did nothing all day except eat delicious meat, chat with people, and sit by the pool and read.  Also, the farofa was delicious.
  • sang Janis Joplin with some random Argentinians.
  • watched my novela, A Vida da Gente.

In the meantime, I haven’t had too much time to do touristy things, but I’ll get around to that when things calm down. I’m still working on finding an apartment and a steady job, as well as taking a course here, so that’s keeping me pretty busy.  Also, my laptop is somehow incompatible with the internet here in the apartment, so my time for internet use is limited–which is for the best, anyway.  So anyway, it’s off to the padaria, then meeting a friend for coffee and to do homework on Paulista.  Whee.

Something to read

Well, seeing that I’m moving across town this weekend, taking the GRE on Thursday, and then going up to New York for my sister’s wedding, I don’t really have time for a real blog post.  I did, however, find this excellent piece on literary theory from the NYTimes website.  It’s worth a read, even if you didn’t do much with literary theory in undergrad (ahem).

So go ahead, read it.  Increase that esoteric knowledge.  As I was saying to a friend at dinner last night, “I may not be full of useful knowledge, but I am full of information.”

In case you were wondering

I was gchatting with my friend Zé and somehow the subject of being tan came up.  This conversation ended up being pretty amusing.  He was surprised when I was talking about my general lack of tan-ness.  Being from the coast of Portugal, he cannot fathom life without beaches.  Being from Atlanta and having gone to school in rural Massachusetts, I cannot imagine life with beaches.  Having reached this awkward impasse, I had to explain:

What do you think, fellow landlocked friends?  How about you, my chorus of Northern buddies?  This is pretty much accurate, right?

These are my confessions

Let’s keep going on that list jam, since it seems to be the easiest way for me to write about my life, which is still sort of amorphously purposed on the day-to-day level.
  1. The more I need to get Serious Bizness TM done, the more I clean my room.
  2. Let’s pretend no longer: this song is my jam (and the MC Casual BlogStyles of any time before a week ago would be so. ashamed.  Whatever, full disclosure, right?  It also helps to regard The Strokes as a completely different band after Room on Fire because they basically are.  And then Phrazes for the Young and AHJr.’s solo stuff make more sense too.):
  3. Let’s also realize that I have a certain fondness for the lengthy parenthetical.
  4. I am way more rusty at GRE math than I had hoped.
  5. Dammit.
  6. I have an irrationally short temper when it comes to the dating world.  You send me a text that says “A penny for your thoughts…”?  We are done, and I am insulted by your idea that I tolerate your bromides.  You invite me to be your date at your birthday dinner after just one date?  You will never hear from me again because that’s weird and a little sad.
  7. An addendum: I have, however, met some great friends through dating situations that didn’t work out, so in some rare cases it can be useful.
  8. And on a related note, I like being single.
  9. Even though I have gotten rid of a lot of my belongings, it’s hard to let go of some things.  I have been through my clothing three times, and I am going to make a few more rounds of cuts before I move.
  10. Oh yeah, I’m moving out of the basement, bitches!  MC Casual BlogStyles: soon-to-be Basement Dwella No Mo’!  Barring global catastrophe (although I wouldn’t put it past the fates at this point, considering the year those of us on Dear Old Planet Earth have had), I will be moving to the best neighborhood ever.  I will be Haver of Dinner and Lawn Parties and That Person Who Walks to the Grocery Store (And Bar) Because She Can’t Ride No Fancy Bicycle and Procurer of Free Internet at Coffee Shops Because Her Old House Doesn’t Have Internet or TV.  Just a few of the more honorable titles I’ll soon adopt.  Oh yeah, and my future roommates are cool, too.  Seriously, though, I lucked out in finding a room in the only walking neighborhood in this city.
  11. I haven’t plucked my eyebrows since last winter because I am growing them out (…yeah, I know), and they actually don’t look heinous.  But this is why bangs come in handy if one happens to spend some time in the public sphere.
  12. However, if I am not outside of my own home, there is a good chance my hair looks like this and I don’t even notice:
  13. I am working my way through Lolita as annotated by Appel and really enjoying the density of the annotation by Appel and the consequent feeling of stupidity and general talentlessness that Nabokov tends to instill.
  14. But I should really be thinking about fractions and exponents and whatnot right now–that, or working on the speech I am giving at Allison’s wedding in October.  Both events: so soon!  And so: so long!

Why not try it all if you only remember it once?

shortly before my steak breakfast

Yes, I know it’s been ages since I wrote anything of substance on this blog.  On one hand, I think it may be better that way ultimately, but on the other, y’all keep checking back here because you want to know what’s going on in my life.  Recently, now that I’m back in Atlanta, I’ve been working on improving my life in the future.  What does that mean?  A lot, actually, but generally I’m trying to force myself out of the comfort zone, both mentally and geographically, so that everything will be easier later.  A few measures I’ve taken recently:

  • New haircut, new mentality.  Trite, but true.
  • Setting a date for the GRE so that I am forced to study.  It’s good to have a plan.
  • Essays, essays, essays…in Portuguese.
  • More essays (in English).
  • Accepting the fact that I’ll be in Atlanta at least until Allison’s wedding in October, so I may as well be meeting new people and going new places instead of treating it like a death sentence.  I read something in passing the other day, where some lady was talking about how her last two weeks in her old city before she moved were the best two weeks she had in that city because she was going out, making plans with people instead of staying home, and seeing sights she’d meant to get to eventually.  So that’s what I’m doing, and it’s working out well.
  • Making inroads into the lusophone community here, since it is sizable and I need to keep improving my language skills.
  • More blind dates.  Ohhh yeah.  Or ohhhhh no, depending.
  • Getting rid of half my belongings.
  • Leaving West ATL more frequently.  Yesterday I went to the exotic land of Emory, for example.
  • Running.  Yeah.  What?  Me?  I know.  It’s nuts, but it feels good(ish) despite the shin splints, and it’s a good way to process things if you’re otherwise sitting and stewing about a problem.
  • Making a concerted effort to read an array of publications about contemporary happenings.  Cue The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Utne Reader, BBC Brasil, &c.
So that’s about it.  I just went to the Waffle House for breakfast and had a steak and coffee, so I’m feeling good.