Friday, October 8, 2010

You MUST Eat Your Ice Cream Cone With A Spoon

Last year's blog entries from Rio were full of juicy observations about Rio, life in Rio, food, manners, and so on.

This year, I'm not feeling so philosophical, and, since I was just here a year ago, things are not as "newish" for me, the level of excitement of being here again is not as elevated (it had been about eight years last time), and so on. And, I'm getting old.

Last year, I posted lots of food pictures, so far this trip, exactly NONE. But we get requests, so, here are some food shots from the last two or three days. To come, photos of people and architecture since last year someone said I ONLY post food and music photos.

Well, what else is there?
Feijoada very Completa!

I've been looking for great feijoada and truthfully, have not found it yet. But, I had an okay one two days ago in a "boteco" in Ipanema called Brasileirinho. It is owned by the folks around the corner, the Casa de Feijoada, so you would expect it to be exemplary. Well, it was just okay. I think the torresmos, which should be nice, hot chunks of crisply fried pork belly with skin attached were more like Bakonettes, light, false-seeming, and not satisfying because they were not fatty enough! The flavor of the beans was lacking meatiness, the couve, or collard greens, contained some burnt, acrid garlic. The meats, which were served separately, were ok, but they included a sausage called XXX, which is basically a hot dog. Never seen this before, but I know it exists. Yuk. The experience was pleasant enough, but the cost for one person was R$ 42 (about 25 bucks), so it was no bargain as was the generous helping I had last Saturday at the Cordão da Bola Preta which was only R$15, about eight bucks, and the flavors of Saturday's plate were far more satisfying.

Torresmo, crispy pork parts
Feijoada meats...

Anyway, here are some photos and a short video of the bubbling clay cauldron of meats and bean broth.


video

Ok, yesterday I was in downtown Rio doing some book and record shopping and stopped at a well-respected botequim called the Casual which has a Portuguese slant to it. It is located in a building which must be at least 150 years old, probably older. Charming alley location, great sidewalk tables good for people watching.

Each day they feature a couple of blue plate lunch specials, mostly with that Portuguese accent, so I opted for the costellinhas ao forno, pork ribs braised in the oven. The serving was generous with about four meaty ribs with falling-off-the-bone tenderness. They had been braised with a well-seasoned tomato-based broth, and were very tasty. A few potatoes, also cooked in that same broth, were included, along with a small mountain of tomatoey rice. The whole thing was quite good...I'd been needing a break from the black beans, meat and fried thingys Carioca-oriented meals I've been having. It did the trick. Only R$22 (about 12 bucks).

A shot of my ribs from Botequim Casual:
Botequim Casual, Downtown Rio

Costellinhas ao forno

Brasil was once the capital of the Portuguese Empire, then it evolved into the Empire of Brasil for a time. An Empire needs an Emperor, and an Emperor needs a Court and a Court needs to present the most formal of manners, the most rigid of bureaucracies, the most rigid of class systems. All these must be present for the Emperor, his court, and his subjects to function properly.

It is my theory that this Imperial Mentality and all its trappings are what trickled down to the people, all the way down to the lowest classes, and is still alive today in many ways. Thus the need to be extremely formal with strangers, or with those of a higher class. It is common for people to be a addressed as “Seu” or "O Senhor" ("sir", but literally, "Your Lord" or something similar), or "A Senhora"("madam", but literally "Your Lady"), in many circumstances... Today I was on the phone ordering a set of CDs to be delivered to me next week. The phone attendant regularly addressed me as "Seu Michael" which I found amusing. Sir Michael, indeed!!!! Yeah, we still use "sir" in certain cases, but nothing like it's used here.

Needless to say, there is an endless list of necessary formalities: Enter an office, or other place of business and silver try with coffee served in small cups will appear. At my hotel, the lobby is full of doormen, at least three at any one time. They fall over each other trying to accommodate the guests. In restaurants, when the food arrives, the waiter very subserviently and ceremoniously dishes a portion of food onto your plate...you will never be allowed to do it yourself!

Don't forget, always use a napkin to pick up ANY sort of finger food, the stuff we would normally eat with our fingers in the United States. ANYTHING, ANYTIME. I think this mania has evolved into a fear of having filth on one's hands, and god forbid you would want to transfer that shit onto your piece of fried bacalhão! Yes, pizza is eaten with a knife and fork. And, yes, ice cream cones are eaten with a spoon....then you toss the cone!

For last year's observations on this, check here: Reflections on Rio

The funny thing is, when I mull over all this formality and ceremony, then compare it with our fronteirsman-based social behavior, I realize how crude we must seem to visitors from other countries where these customs appear...which would be about every country but ours!

Americans! You are a rugged bunch of socially inept slobs!

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