Well, today is the big day for surgery! And I am prepared to go under the knife having one of the best meals I’ve had in ages. Here’s the story.
I’ve been bugging Gilberto, our driver/guide/translator/friend, to recommend a place that has good feijoada. I had found a frozen brand that I found quite delicious. Here’s a picture of it mixed with a LOT of rice (so we could stretch it to feed both of us):
When we expressed a desire to find traditional Brazilian simple dishes in the restaurants, he was kind enough to invite us into his home, not once, but twice to feed us tradtional Brazilian food.
Our first meal with his family was on Sunday, when they invited us to a traditional Brazilian churasco, a feast of grilled meat, what seemed like American style potato salad, seasoned manioc (which they called “flavor”), veggies, and a couple of desserts they called “nut stroganoff” – everything was so very delicious, and even though there was a significant language barrier, with my tiny grasp of Portugese (it surprises me just how much I’ve picked up in 4 days, though) and their tiny grasp of English, we still found a way to bridge the communication gap and had quite a nice conversation. Of course, being foreigners, we were quite concerned about following Brazilian dining etiquette, and figured that it would have been rude on my part to either take pictures or ask to take pictures, even though I would have loved to share the spread with you through my eyes.
Yesterday afternoon, Gilberto picked us up at the hotel, and after stopping at the grocery to get flan (it is customary in Brazil to bring something when you are invited to someone’s home), we went over to the family house. We could smell it as we were driving up, the smell of the stew and bacon filling the hot summer air as we pulled into the driveway. After being greeted warmly again by the extended family, we sat down for a fabulous meal.
We had a traditional pink bean stew with meat, similar to feijoada over white rice, served with fried eggs (I wish I knew how they got them so crispy and flavorful), and spring greens with bacon. From what I understand, this is the Brazilian equivalent of “soul food”, and is usually served on Saturdays and sometimes Wednesdays. This means that they went out of their way to make this for us, and it was so very appreciated.
Is it sad that I use Tony Bourdain as my benchmark on how to act in an unfamiliar dining situation? I’ve always found him to be so humble and gracious in the way that he approaches other cultures that I try to be the same way when put in the same position. Gilberto’s family is a bit less formal than most, and we all had a good laugh on Brazilian vs. US dining etiquette.
I am so appreciative of and honored by the way his family has taken us under their wing while we’ve been here. It somehow makes this whole country seem a lot less foreign, and a lot more like home. I couldn’t have asked for a better “last ” meal.