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Last week we had two more people return to the US, Apurv and Udit. While Udit slipped away silently Apurv decided to go out in style.

First up was a new twist on the BBQ tradition. We all met at the same location and instead of having our standard skewers of meat we forayed into cooking (and eating) carreteiro. Basically think of it as the Brazilian version of biryani. In addition to the change of our featured food item we also drank a traditional winter drink, quentão, which translates to “big hot” and is essentially a mulled wine where the alcohol that has been cooked off in heating the wine is replaced with cachaça.

Turns out, even though the party was in Apurv’s honor, it was not his last night in town, the next night was. So after a training session that ended at 10, Carlos who was helping me with the session decided to join Apurv and a friend from his hometown that he had met recently, quite a chance meeting given that Apurv grew up in India, for a drink at Z Café. Probably needless to say with it being Apurv’s actual last night, it was more than one drink, especially when he started buying. So sometime around 2 we shut the place down and ambled home for a short rest before another day in the office.

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful so on to the weekend.

Saturday was ugly, rain, rain, and more rain. One of those rains that is just steady all day long and makes you want to crawl under a blanket and stay there. So that is pretty much what I did. I did make it out to get some groceries without melting too much and then it was back to the apartment, some downloaded TV shows, lots of Facebook messages, and not much else.

Thankfully Sunday made up for it. It was around 15 and sunny so my plans to head to the Brique da Redenção to do a little bit of shopping were followed through. I headed out around noon with only a fleece as an outer layer, and even that was too much by the end, and wandered slowly down one side of the market and up the other. I didn’t venture into the antiques area as I was really more interested in the artists works and wound up buying a scarf which was not unique but that I liked and four pairs of earrings that were all interesting and different than I had seen elsewhere. Yes, I will definitely now need to get serious about buying a larger jewelry armoire when I get home as things were already overflowing.

An interesting observation at the market was the number of people campaigning for the upcoming October elections. Shown is only one spot where there were many signs being toted around. There were also plenty of folks handing out pamphlets, I turned down the offer figuring I could neither read it nor vote, and booths set up with more information and folks to talk to. I didn’t get any more pictures than this since I had stupidly left my camera at home and the battery on my iPhone was quite low.

Since it was so nice I decided that after stopping back I decided to head back out and walk to Padre Chagas to check out a park down there and maybe look for the one pair of shoes I wanted to buy before leaving Brazil. Brazil is known for their shoes, and as such they aren’t cheap so one pair was a good goal.

Given the gorgeous weather the park was filled with people from all walks of life. There were kids playing on the playground which included a mini zip line, how cool, we didn’t have anything like that when I was a kid. Everyone just seemed to be having a great time and to be very thankful that for once one of the warm sunny days fell on a weekend. Though I did get a kick out of the boy on the left with his winter cap still firmly planted on his head despite the warmth of the day. That said, there was one guy trying to sun himself wearing only shorts, think styles from the 70s and you will get an idea, stylish or not, it was not quite that warm.

Being Rio Grande du Sol there were also many people just hanging out drinking chimarrão, something else on my shopping list. I have yet try the beverage, though I want to, since my crazy US bred inhibitions against sharing something like that with others, it is drunk through a shared straw, always kick in.
And no sunny day park visit can be complete without the Coke and cotton candy vendors. These I was not tempted by as I am pretty picky about the form in which I eat/drink my sugar. Do notice that the cotton candy vendor appears to be listening to a portable radio, probably a futebol game. I am pretty sure Inter was playing sometime that day, though I don’t know exactly when, since as I was leaving for Padre Chagas, passing the Blue Tree Hotel, their bus was outside and the team members were boarding and signing autographs. And shortly after that the bus, accompanied by a police escort, passed me as I was talking to Sameer and Disha who happened to be returning from the grocery store at that time.

Of course that park itself had some sights to see so all in all it was a nice relaxing bit of time spent soaking in some much needed fresh air.

After the park I was off to find the shoes. It was a successful mission, costly, but successful (it is one of those that if you have to ask how much, …..). The shopping itself was interesting as the store where I got them was a temporary store meaning that they will be open for a couple of months, selling what they can, and then they will shut the doors. The reason being that rent in Padre Chagas is very high, which probably also contribute to the cost of the shoes, which by the way are awesome – I may never be able to walk in them, but as my co-workers noted when I was describing them, “that’s not the point”.

And the whole shoe thing came full circle yesterday when upon returning to my desk there was a Dove chocolate wrapper sitting there that said “Shoe shopping is therapy!” as one of my Facebook posts over the weekend had asked if shopping qualified as group therapy.

Tchau,

Wendy

With the abundance of BBQ in Brazil, which if you have been following my posts you are quite aware of, it should be of no surprise to you that I had yet one more chance to enjoy one of these feasts during the last week before my holiday. This time it was back to the BBQ pits that are adjacent to the futebol fields where TWers often head for pick up games on weekday evenings. And this time there was actually an occasion for holding this event, some folks from one of the clients were visiting from the US.

Since I still have not become brave enough to try my skills, which I know lack severely, at futebol I was destined to hang out in the BBQ pit area during the game. This turned out to be a very good thing, as Luis, who was preparing the BBQ that evening, was more than willing to run it as a BBQ 101 session to teach us gringoes the tricks of the trade.

First there is the fire. And this is not a simple charcoal grill we are igniting, it needs to burn long and steady to cook the meat just right. So, you start with an old wine or similar bottle and wrap it in newspaper which has been tightly rolled the idea being that when this is surrounded by coals and lit you will get a convection current and a very hot flame.

Once the bottle has been prepared it is set inside the BBQ pit and surrounded by charcoal, here again don’t think of the 4th of July and Kingsford briquettes, this is a mix of something like that and what looks like actual pieces of wood that have been treated is some way to burn very hot.

And now you move to the meat, that’s right you get this fire stuff ready and leave it, that is you don’t light it until all of the meat is ready.

The main work with the meat is the skewering which differs for the type of meat. This night we had 4 types, the first thing to hit the skewers was the sausage which is traditionally placed on the double skewer with each link being pierced twice. At some BBQs there are a number of different sausages, some of which have a good kick to them which is surprising given the general lack of spice in the food here, however this night we only had one.

With that simple task behind them, the chefs moved on to the entrecôt which is not traditionally used in a BBQ since it is not always the best cut of beef. This needed to be sliced to get it into a form where it could be placed on the spear. Think of how you slice a tenderloin when you stuff it making a compact thick piece of meat into a larger thinner one.

It was then time to move on to the good stuff, the picanha, of course what makes it so good is, as with many things, the fat content. Note that this cut, as well as the entrocot, are placed on a skewer that looks more like a narrow sword than the skewers used for meat in the US.

Through all of this skewering one must use a note of caution to check the length of the skewer versus the depth of the BBQ pit occasionally, as you want to make sure that the meat will not be up against the wall or hanging out of the front and thus not cook properly.

The final meat for the evening was a slab of ribs, which was a bit of a challenge to skewer given the bones, but worth the effort.

Things are almost ready to cook now, there is just one step left, the salting. This night we used a simple method where dry salt, sort of like rock salt, is sprinkled generously (maybe sprinkled isn’t the right term) over all of the cuts of meat other than the sausages, actually I don’t recall if the ribs were salted, probably since there was no other seasoning or rub present.

The other two options for salting are to add the salt to water and sprinkle the meat with that mixture or to marinate the meat in the salt for hours before skewering. Given that folks had purchased the meat on the way to the BBQ pits, the last method was not an option.

Now for the final two steps, the grilling and of course the eating. And these are in a way combined, as at a BBQ you don’t wait for everything to be done to eat, you just eat things as they are ready. So given that you pretty much start cooking everything at the same time, the first thing off the grill is the cheese and it is wonderful. Often it is a smokey provolone that is enhanced by the smoke of the BBQ and the pieces are melting and dripping as you pop them in your mouth.

There is a bit of liberty taken with the cooking and serving order, in that generally things are placed on the fire in locations or an order which saves the best for last. So knowing this you would think we would all wise up and wait for the end to eat as we know what’s coming. However, by the time all this prep is done it is generally getting late and we are generally hungry so we dive into the first things available with a furry meaning that we are often stuffed before the spoils are ready. Here again we often choose poorly as we still wind up finding some room for these best pieces and thus, as with many buffet type meals, we wind up eating way too much food.

Of course if you ever go to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant keep this in mind as from what I have heard they will do the same thing there to try to keep from having to serve too much of the good stuff.

Tchau,

Wendy

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