Monthly Archive: December 2011

Dec 31

Brazil’s Coca Cola Rivers

Hello there. It might seem like I am typing this to you from my normal seat (you know, the one at the table in the dining room), but that is actually a cleverly constructed illusion. In reality I am miles away. In another state no less. That’s right, I am finally going to Minas Gerais, Brazil’s state of Cheese and Cachaça (that’s not the official state logo, those are just the two things I’m most excited about).

Though in reality, that is also a bit of an illusion (OK, let’s drop this ‘illusion’ talk, it’s a lie, a straight out lie). Because I am in my normal seat in the dining room as I type this, but using the power of delayed publishing (I set a time in the future for this post to be automatically published), when you read this I will be in Minas Gerais. Basically I’m going to be away from Computer-Land for a while, so I’m writing a post before I go away. Everyone clear on that? Great.

The plan is to spend the New Year holiday in Ibitipoca (sounds like i-bitchy-POCK-a). Ibitipoca, or more properly Parque Estadual do Ibitipoca, is a forest park created back in 1973 and covering 1,488 hectares. You have to buy a ticket to enter the park and the number of visitors is limited to 300 per day. You can camp (we will be) and apparently these numbers are limited also.

That's a LOT of Coca Cola...

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Dec 30

What colour is your New Year’s Eve?

And so we reach the point where memories of Amigo Oculto and Blueberry Trifle are fading fast and we turn our attention to New Year’s Eve. It seems that in Brazil, New Year’s Eve may be referred to using one of several terms. Mostly I hear people talking about Reveillon, but then I have also seen Véspera de Ano Novo and Noite de Ano Novo (hint, I ‘wonder’ about things like this in the hope and expectation that some clever Portuguese speaker will clarify things for me).

If you decide to spend your NYE in Rio then the main event is held in Copacabana. As many as 2 million people [shudder] are expected to celebrate together on the night – there will be big-name musicians such as Beth Carvalho, O Rappa and [shudder again] David Guetta, plus a spectacular firework display. I went past the area in a taxi yesterday and the driver joked that the only people who stick around for this event are tourists. Indeed, many Cariocas decide to use this holiday to get out of town and avoid the mayhem.

The New Year's Eve fireworks in Copacabana. Sure the fireworks look cool, but just look at all those people. Good luck getting a taxi home... (thanks to mazavideos.blogspot.com for the awesome photo)

 

But regardless of where you decide to spend Reveillon, there is one question on everyone’s mind: What colour will you be wearing?

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Dec 29

Wark This Way!

As regular readers of Eat Rio will know, I have a small obsession with graffiti. I love spotting new pieces as they appear and getting to recognise the work of particular artists or crews. Soon after I arrived here, one character caught my attention and the more I travelled within the city, the more I saw his rather unseemly face.

Not a particularly friendly or happy character is he?

 

I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of this series of often sneering characters. But they were striking and something about them really  jumped out at me. In my head I dubbed them ‘Ballmen’ and the more I looked around, the more I realised that there were many different variations dotted around the streets of Rio.

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Dec 28

British Christmas Food in Brazil (part 2), OR: It’s a Mere Trifle

Yesterday I did my best to convince you all that I’m some kind of super-chef (it’s great having your own blog, you can tell stories that make you sound great). Today I’m going to continue in the same vein by telling you the story of this year’s Christmas day cooking adventure.

Pavlova - a delicious dessert that I didn't make this year.

 

After the stress and hassle of last year’s Beef Wellington, I made a point of opting out of the main dish and instead offered to make sobremesa (dessert). I decided to do a pavlova – none of my Brazilian family had heard of this delicious dessert made up of layers of meringue, cream and summer fruits, so it seemed like a great option for wowing them once again. Problem was we ended up being dangerously short of time. And it was stiflingly hot. And we had to make the dessert at our place in Santa Teresa and then transport it across town to my mother-in-law’s house in Gávea. I had visions of arriving across town and unveiling some broken, melted mess.

So we switched to Plan B.

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Dec 26

British Christmas Food in Brazil (part 1)

Yesterday I told you about my Véspera de Natal (Christmas Eve): food, drink and excitement in the form of Amigo Oculto.  Today I wanted to tell you about my Christmas day experience of a year ago (though in reality this will be a thinly disguised vehicle to allow me to boast about my self-proclaimed culinary prowess).

This time last year I had been in Rio for just 6 months and so my new family and I were still getting to know each other. Back in October of that year, my mother-in-law had casually asked about the traditional English foods. When I described Beef Wellington a strange look came over her face. I thought nothing more of it until a week before Christmas when another member of the family told me they were looking forward to trying my Beef Wellington on Christmas day! Ha ha, she had got me fully roped in! She reassured me that it would only be a few people, maybe 7 or 8 at the most, but by the end of Christmas Eve, more than 15 people had told me how curious they were about the meal I was cooking tomorrow. Oh great!

I get a bit annoyed when people tell me British food is bad. Sure you can find bad food in Britain, but great British food can hold its own against any other cuisine. The St John restaurants in London are a prime example. My full rant on this subject is at the bottom of the post…

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Dec 26

My (least?) favourite Brazilian Christmas Tradition

Today is Boxing Day, 26th December, and in a few moments I will be going to work. This is not because there is some important project being implemented out of office hours, nor is it because I am involved in some special end-of-year accounting work. It is because 26th December is just another working day here in Brazil. I have been struggling to come to terms with this information for the past week or so.

Not what I think of as a typical Christmas scene… There are at least 3 idiosyncratic details in this shot – the bikini sales man to the mid-right; the skimpy sunga mid-left; the 65 year old woman with a 30 year old’s body and a skimpy bikini to match! 

 

But what I lose today on Boxing Day, I gained on Christmas Eve. Here in Brazil, it seems that Christmas Eve is as big, if not bigger, than Christmas Day itself. We spent the day lounging on the beach trying to stay cool in the stifling heat. But later on that evening we had The Big Family Event.

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Dec 24

My Favourite Brazilian Christmas Treat

OK, don’t all laugh at me, but I heard a rumour going round that Christmas is fast approaching. I haven’t worked it out exactly, but my guess is that there aren’t many shopping days left until the big day itself. This information does not compute. I have spent every day this past week thanking whoever it was that invented air conditioning (and also thanking my father-in-law for donating an air conditioner a few weeks back).

Seriously, I put up a hammock yesterday. Hammocks and Christmas are not, in my book, words that go together.

Ah, my lovely hammock from lovely Colombia. This trusty fellow looked after me on an interminable boat ride down the Amazon and it's great to see him again. However, does this scene strike you as Christmasy? I guess the hammock does have a bit of a Santa colour scheme going on...

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Dec 23

What links Rod Stewart, George Benson and Zumbi?

If you’re asking yourself who or what Zumbi is then go and check out yesterday’s post. OK, so I’m going to assume that we’re all up to speed on Zumbi. I’m sure you guys know about the other two, but just in case, this is Rod Stewart:

This is Rod on a visit to Brazil in 1978. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect Rod didn’t need much persuading to wear a sunga…

 

And this is George Benson:

Looks pretty happy with himself doesn’t he?

 

So what do these guys have in common with each other and also with a 17th Century leader of escaped slaves?

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Dec 22

Zombies of Brazil

If I said ‘Zombie Nation’ you might think I’m talking about a crappy video game from 1990, a horrible techno song that (apparently) US college kids like to sing when their team does something good, or a movie so bad that one reviewer described it as “a monstrously absurd turd of a film”.

If, on the other hand, I mentioned Nação Zumbi, at least some of my readers would think of a Brazilian band who are most definitely not crappy! I was lucky enough to be taken to one of their performances a couple of days after I arrived in Rio and I have to say they were awesome. Their style is a fusion of rock, hip-hop and traditional Brazilian music with some serious drumming thrown in. If you get the chance, go see them, they’re a great band. When I went to see them, I misheard the translation of the band name and assumed it meant Zombie Nation. In fact it means Zumbi Nation - this is Zumbi: 

Zumbi also known as Zumbi dos Palmares. His story is fascinating, inspiring and tragic.

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Dec 21

Sleepy Consolation

I’ve never been good at getting a good night’s sleep. It’s a cliché I know, but it really does apply to me: when I have to get up for work it’s a real struggle and then on weekends I seem to be unable to sleep past 7.30am… Well yesterday my body-clock decided to mix things up a bit.

I had a weird dream that my Dad and I were having a meal here in Brazil, but the chef was slightly posh and English (as is my Dad). The chef came over to ask how the food was and my Dad proceeded to detail all the ways in which it was sub-standard (this is quite realistic). An excruciatingly awkward silence descended on the restaurant after my father had delivered his verdict and at this point the social anxiety got to much for me  and I woke up with palpitations (you can tell I’m English right?).

Not exactly a life-changing trauma, but as I recovered I realised that I was now fully awake and it didn’t feel like I would get back to sleep. A glance at the clock told me it was just after 6am – a glance out of the window suggested it might be worth grabbing the camera!

How am I meant to go back to bed with this outside my window? In the centre of the frame you should just be able to make out an aeroplane on its approach to Santos Dumont Airport. (Herb fans will notice that the Oregano in the window-box is doing rather well)

 

I decided that now I was up I’d make some coffee, grab my camera and take a few snaps. I also put some laundry in the washing machine and felt the smug glow of someone who knows they have achieved several things before 7am – this was a novel experience for me…

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