Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bye "Dunkin Donuts Lattes", Hello "Sonic Cherry Limeades"

Driving from Memphis to Oklahoma went smooth, Gil and Deborah chatted the whole way, made me laugh and kept me awake, not to mention a whole group of friends who were keeping up with us via facebook and sending messages of encouragement with each state line conquered in the middle of the night, I will tell you, traveling in the age of facebook and smart phones is a whole new experience, a good one for sure.
It used to be that the further we got from New England the harder it was to find good coffee, I mean, that is a matter of taste, I know, but in Gil's eyes, good coffee means coffee extracted from an ESPRESSO maker period, Cappuccino, Latte whatever, it has to be made from Espresso, we are big city people, not snobs, we need our real coffee, we had always called the typical American coffee, dirty water, until we started traveling away from the east coast and had no options for coffee but the good ol'dirty watered down coffee served on road side cafes across America, it was definitely another level of getting acquainted with our new country's culture.
However, back on the east coast, all Dunkin Donuts have had Espresso makers for many years now, however as you get west of Pennsylvania it gets harder to find our favorite beloved Dunkin Donuts.

My so loved New England addiction

The best thing to happen in Massachusetts since Boston Harbor's Tea Party

And we would like to take this moment to thank our Sweet Baby Jesus for the best news for travelers in America since the invention of Highways, ALL MC DONALD'S in the US have ESPRESSO MAKERS, ( not yet in Canada as we later found out)  from sea to shining sea, from California to the New York Island, you will now find and enjoy your lattes and Cappuccinos made the right way with powerful espresso makers. There is a God!   :)

Now from California to the New York Island from sea to shining sea  :)

Dunkin Donuts is always our first choice but they get scarce somewhere in Ohio. Starbucks is horrible and expensive, so it is our last resort. McDonald's new line of coffees is just right and you can find it everywhere.
We are familiar with most of the speed traps along this route, we learned the hard way over the years and they start at the Oklahoma state line, if you are driving on I-40 in Missouri the speed limit is 75mph, as soon as you hit the Oklahoma state line the speed limit drops to 65mph and there is a Police cruiser hiding behind a road sign, just like you have seen in the movies hundreds of times. You really need to pay attention at your speeds in Oklahoma, as well as Florida for that matter, but that is subject for a whole other post.
One thing I have always loved when I crossed the Oklahoma state line is finding a Sonic every mile, ok, not every mile, mile, but they are everywhere and where I can find a Sonic I can find Cherry Limeades and Tater Tots...not exactly a healthy food, but it reminds me of my High School days and it's in my opinion one of life's simple delicious pleasures.

Sonic Cherry Limeade

Sonic Tater Tots

In New England for some strange DMA (Designated Market Areas) mishap they advertise the hell out Sonic but you can't find one within 750 miles from Boston, it drives me crazy to see Cherry Limeades and Tater Tots on TV everyday knowing there are no Sonics around here!
Back to our driving, our mother made asked us to give trip updates via Facebook often, our parents have always made us keep in touch often.
We always felt protected when our parents know where we are, sometimes we called and all laughed together on the speaker phone, we really love our mother and wish she was healthy enough to enjoy these moments on the road with us, facebook and skype is keeping us close for now and we are thankful for that.
The next few days we did what we always do in Oklahoma, we enjoyed family and friends, we ate delicious home cooked meals, visited some great friends from my high school days, drove our obnoxiously large 4X4 SUV on some awesome trails and into creeks, we had a great time.
Many friends invited us over for barbecue or just to sit by the fire and drink beers, eat pizza and remember stories from our High School days, Gil and Deborah learned a lot of fun stuff even I had forgotten about those days when we all used to drink ... a lot...and do silly things only 18 year olds can do.
Deborah drove a combine and harvested wheat and had a blast!
Yeap, the girl who rides the subway to work everyday, enjoys wearing MAC and L'Occitane took off her high heels and climbed up on a combine to harvest wheat. She drove it for about a whole hour at sunset and took some amazing pictures of the wheat fields, the mountains and the sunset.
Gil and I picked ripe apricots and plums from our friends orchards, we made homemade jelly and learned all about canning it so we could bring it home to New England.
We never tasted apricots that good, I had known Oklahoma wild plums for a long time, but I didn't remember how fresh Apricots could taste so good.
Gil would sit under the apricot trees with a book and eat fresh apricot and read for hours, we would completely forget about him...he loves to go stealth sometimes, it's his so needed alone time.
Deborah panicked for a couple hours when she realized her cell phone and laptop had no signal, but she relaxed and went with the flow when we got her hooked up via land line at the farm, she is not paranoid but she was running her business via cell phone and laptop the whole trip so her managers could contact her if they had any troubles back in Sao Paulo.
Yeah, you can get Espresso coffee in far Western Oklahoma but God forbid you need your 3G network to have any signal, good luck.
That reminded me that when we were kids and went on vacations, our father would be completely OUT of touch with his work, no contacts with the office what-so-ever...no Blackberries or cell phones in the 70's and  80's, there were advantages and disadvantages to the way things were in my opinion.
The main advantage was that our father would completely change his mood for the better as the vacation progressed, he was 100% there with us, no interruptions.

Today, we have technology on our side with all the interruptions, however, we can take more vacations  because we can manage our businesses from a distance in great details and we learned how to multitask, well, some of us did.
I was amazed to find out dentists were emailing Deborah patients x-ray's and she would be able to analyse them and write reports and email them back quickly so the work never stopped in her Sao Paulo clinic just because she was away having fun in the plains west of the Mississippi, all happening in real time.
We would continue about our vacation day without a glitch, you gotta love technology, it will free you if you put it to work for you!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My sister Deborah and the Peabody's Ducks

This is the beginning of the story about how we got married, you will understand why a little later in a series of posts to follow, but I had to start from the start so here we go.
My sister Deborah came to visit us early this summer, she rented an apartment in Manhattan, I took the Acela train from Boston to New York and stayed with her.

Deborah fell in love with Central Park, it wasn't her first time in the city but her first time in NY during the summer
 She had fun New York for a couple of weeks and as soon as she had all her shopping done and her museums visited she was ready to stretch her trip a bit
My sister is a Dentist and a professional photographer too, so she decided to invite us to take her on a cross country road trip to take pictures and visit our dear friends in Oklahoma, who she met when they went to Brazil in the 90's, Gil is not a big fan of traveling but he loves spending time with Deborah so it was easy to talk him into coming with us, they love to talk, for hours and hours and hours.

Deborah is a Dentist, she also took a two year professional photography course, she is an awesome photographer

Here is a picture of Gil, he is a little different now, he has a beard:

My awesome  husband Gil
 I should explain at this point that I was an exchange student in 1989 and I lived in Oklahoma for one whole year as a Senior in High School. I made friends for life which I still visit today, we are like family.
Gil and I have spent countless Thanksgivings and Christmas with our Oklahoma family.
So, Gil drove the Expedition down to New York, picked us up and off we went to Oklahoma.
Let me tell you one thing, THANK GOD FOR DUAL A/C TEMPERATURES in cars, my sister is always cold, it was 80 degrees outside, Gil and I had the A/C turned down to 60 degrees on our side of the car and Deborah had it full blast on 80 degrees the whole time, plus she was wearing a sweater.
I remember traveling in my family's Chevrolet Caravan's station wagon as a child and we all either froze with the A/C or we burned up with the heater, someone was always complaining, you just couldn't make everyone happy, that is partly how we drove our parents crazy, this small new device would have made our family vacations much more pleasant.

My parent's station wagon in the 70's - Powerful one temperature A/C

This is the car we drove to the beach every weekend, all 6 of us, plus luggage and surfing boards tied to the top

Sorry, I love cars so much, I had to to tag some pictures for my own our mutual enjoyment ; )
Back to our trip, Deborah took so many awesome pictures on our Manhattan to Oklahoma trip I will have to dedicate a post to her professional photos soon.
I have an addiction strong cravings for Dunkin Donuts coffee, it is just the absolute best, I will talk more about that later as well, but we unfortunately stopped finding delicious Dunkin Donuts coffee somewhere around West Virginia and had to live on nasty overpriced, over rated Starbucks for the rest of the trip :(
We love animals so much that my sister, Gil and I made reservations to spend the night at the Peabody Hotel, downtown Memphis for the sole purpose of watching the "Ducks March" to the water fountain on the following morning, yeah, we are silly that way :), I say we find pleasure in the simple things in life.
We stopped so often for pictures and pee breaks that we never made it to Memphis that night, we called in, canceled our reservations and stayed at a small Motel on the side of the road 100 miles short of Memphis, the plan was to wake up early and head to the Peabody to watch the Ducks marching into the Hotel's central water fountain, a Memphis tradition for almost 100 years.
It all worked out fine at the end.

Peabody Hotel, Downtown Memphis Tennessee

Here is a link with the Peabody's awesome ducks history. 

We spent the whole day in Memphis and had a blast, we watched the ducks, took lots of professional pictures of the ducks, the carriages up front had beautiful horses and downtown Memphis has some interesting historical buildings.
After watching the ducks we had some awesome authentic Memphis Barbecued Ribs downtown at a traditional restaurant that I can't remember the name, but there were many, many Barbecued places downtown, they were apparently all filled with customers and were all great according to some locals, you just can't go wrong eating barbecued baby back ribs with your hands plus corn of the cob, to my sister's horror, everyone ate with their hands and so was she by the end of the meal...Paulista's are just fork and knife people, what can tell you, we adapt but it doesn't come easy, you Expats in Brazil might understand exactly what I am talking about when it comes to eating with your hands in public.
Graceland was our natural next destination, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around Graceland, buying souvenirs some awesome Elvis music and taking pictures and talking ourselves to death,
I love my sister :)

We left Memphis around 5 pm and arrived in Oklahoma some time after midnight, the trip was going without a glitch until now...I will continue with our adventurous trip in the following post.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

An interesting coment by Fabio Brossard

Folks, after reading a comment from a reader and fellow blogger, Fabio Brossard, I felt the need to write a short post to clarify a few things...

This is Fabio's comment below:

"So Ray is Brazilian!
I always thought you were American because of your perfect English or how you referred to yourself as American.
I am also sorry to hear your story. It's sad that you had to leave your country because some people can't accept you for who you are. But luckily you found a new home in a different land.
November 25, 2010 7:07 PM

Below is my reply to Fabio, which should make a few things clear, first an most important, I am Brazilian, born in the town of Sao Bernardo do Campo, a city in the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo city.
I am very proud of my state and city, however I am Americanized beyond repair  : ) 
Not that is it is a bad thing to be Americanized, it actually is what it is and I am also proud of my new life and my new country which I love to no end!
We actually proudly display an American flag in front of our home, which has stayed illuminated all night, every night since the day we bought our house in May of 2003. 

Blogger Gil and Ray said...


Thanks for your kind words, I think my English is far from perfect, it's actually a work in progress.
I just would like to make it clear that I never mentioned my nationality as being American to deceive anyone, I really am naturalized American citizen and today I do identify more with the United States than with Brazil, I do feel almost like a foreigner when visiting my family in Sao Paulo, I know it sounds strange but it is our reality.
However, yes, I was born in Brazil and I am very proud to be a Paulista da gema, born in Sao Bernardo do Campo "Terra Matter" ;)
I have been in the US off and on since I was 17 years old, High School, College and University, that has helped me understand the culture very well and at times sound like a native.
It was sad to have to leave Sao Paulo for the reasons we left, because we were happy in Brazil, we had a good life and a future and we had to give that up along with family and friends because of homophobia, we were tired, we came in search of peace of mind.
However it could have been worse, my relatives escaped religious persecution in France for being Jews, they had a much tougher time than we could even comprehend, but that is subject for another post perhaps. However I tend to see the cup half full, always.
Welcome to our blog, I hope you enjoy reading about our experiences as Brazilian Expats in the US.

Take care


How to Brine the PERFECT Turkey!

Yeah, this is one of those situations when I suddenly realize how Americanized we have become...
My American neighbor asks me how to brine a turkey! Me? I am a naturalized American citizen...she was born here...well, I guess we are bigger Martha Stewart fans than most people : )
We learned with Martha Stewart in the late 90's and have always brined our turkeys.
I always thought roasted turkeys were extremely dry, hence the need to drink gallons of gravy on top of it...not at our home where turkey is juicy, tender and perfect, every time.
Turkeys are very popular in Brazil as well, my grandparents always cooked a Turkey for Christmas, they were very humble European immigrants but family reunions for Christmas and New Year's eve were sacred.
Many people would come that they would take a few doors off the hinges and place them on top of empty wooden apple crates they got from the local farmers market "feira".
We were simple people who enjoyed our family and friends every chance we had, and still do, my family will use any excuse to have a party/family reunion which usually holds no less than 50 people.
Turkeys were a big part of any family gathering in Brazil. So this was an easy American tradition to be adopted at our new life in New England, the birthplace of Thanksgiving, we actually live within 20 minutes driving from the famous historical Plymouth Rock  :)
Now, we are Turkey experts, we have year after year the most delicious juicy and tender turkeys I have ever eaten, ANYWHERE!
Ok, let's jump right on it.
The official rule on how to brine a turkey says no less than 8 hours and no more than 24.
We do 48 hours, but we put the completely frozen turkey in the water and let it defrost in the fridge for it to brine.
It always turns out delicious, you can't go wrong if you follow our advice ;)

Why brine?

Brining a turkey consists of leaving it submerged in seasoned water which makes it's meat juicy and tender.

Brining makes it moist. Why are brined turkeys so juicy? Salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings. It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender-seeming turkey. This means that--despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time--you end up with a juicy bird.
There is no real secret to brining a turkey, you can make your own favorite seasoning or you can follow our recipe below.


We used a 13 pound Turkey-
1 full cup light salt (less if you use real marine salt)
5 table spoons powered garlic
5 table spoons powered onion
4 table spoons  black pepper
4 table spoons sweet paprika
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar


The real trick with brining is finding a container that's large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot, a bucket, or a roasting pan; if you use a shallow roasting pan, you will need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (so spills won't reach foods below).
Remember the seasoning has to be a little on the stronger side because you are going to mix it with over a gallon of cold water.
Usual recipes use 2 cups of regular kosher salt, we use 1 cup of light salt in an effort to reduce sodium in our diet, our turkey turns out great every time.
If you don't worry about sodium and like things a little on the salty side, 2 cups of salt.
Mix all your spices in about 3 cups of very hot water, just to make sure all the dry spices are well mixed.
Add another 1 and 1/2 to two gallons of cold water to the mix, add your turkey to it and make sure the turkey is completely submerged in your seasoned water.
Cover it and place it in your refrigerator, we used a 15 quarts (14 Liter) plastic bucket and we had to remove a shelf to fit the bucket in our fridge.
Most people around here just place the covered turkey in their cold garages, with temperatures in the 30's in New England in November, it makes sense, but if you live south of the Mason/Dixon line you better keep it in your fridge.
We have a second fridge in the house so that is what we use, our garage is filled with other stuff, as any authentic American garage :)
The real trick with brining is finding a container that's large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot, a bucket, or a roasting pan; if you use a shallow roasting pan, you will need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (so spills won't reach foods below).

Our own personal trick:

We place the frozen turkey in the seasoned water 48 hours before going to the oven.

Frozen 13 pound turkey submerged in seasoned water for brining
 I personally like to use the "Glad Press and Seal" to cover the bucket and prevent any possible spillages in the fridge

Frozen turkey fully submerged and ready for the fridge 48 hours before the oven

Turning the turkey after 24 hours in brining

Our turkey was completely submerged but we turn it upside down after 24 hours anyway

Dry the bucket well before reapplying the Glad Press & Seal to assure proper adhesion 

Cover it well and back to the fridge for another 24 hours.

We love Glad's "Press & Seal", I've told Gil if some day we move back to Brazil we will be taking a extra full container filled with Glad Press & Seal. Yeap, it's that good!

We used a Pizza Crisper underneath the disposable foil pan so it wouldn't fold it in half while carrying it to the oven

I know, this is how Americanized we are, being practical is the American way more than anything I can think of right now.
We bought a disposable Foil Turkey Roaster, U$3,00 dollars at Walmart, or U$1,50 at Price Right as I later found out :( , darn Wally Word beat me again!
It saves you time and saves your hands from scrubbing and energy too.

Remove it from the fridge and roast it in the oven for 3 hours on 325F degrees or until your turkey's "ready" indicator pops up, as shown on the picture below:

Ready, set, GO!!!!
Congratulations, your turkey will be the talk of the town, I mean, around your family and friends  :)

Happy Thanksgiving!! 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Chevrolet Chevette to Ford Expedition in 13 years

DISCLAIMER: If you don't like cars, this will be a somewhat boring post. But it is our car history, like the title says, from my intern days driving a Chevrolet Chevette to a Business Development Vice President 13 years later driving a Ford Expedition.

Cars have always been my passion. Gil could care less...he never drove before we moved to the US, he is a big city guy, didn't even know how to drive until he was almost 30.
He loves Jaguars, I love Fords.
Driving was an important part of Gil's adaptation process to American life.  I was from the suburbs of Sao Paulo so I always drove, but he grew up in the city where the subway was king, he always walked, took the taxi, the subway or the bus, Dallas was a shock beyond comprehension on him.
He tried, bless his heart :)  but he could not make it, Dallas has a mediocre transportation system at best, very limited routes, you would only find drunk and stinky and scary looking people in the few buses available around the city.
Gigantic city blocks and NO side walks...that was a first for him, he had lived in Sao Paulo, London and Toronto, all had very good public transportation systems available, not Dallas, Texas where V8 engines are the rule. I was raised in the Sao Paulo suburbs and had lived in Oklahoma and California both places where cars and highways dominate the landscape.
Not to mention, Dallas has a brutally HOT weather in the summer and very cold temperatures in the winter which made it next to impossible to be without a car, he tried to take the bus to the Galeria Mall one day and almost passed out, literally, poor Gil nearly had a heat stroke, while looking for the bus stop to return home, he ended up on top of a gigantic overpass with no sidewalks, he could never find a way to cross to the opposite side of the roads to find the bus stop to return home, he still has nightmares about it.
That was the last day he tried public transportation in Dallas.
Just before we moved to Dallas I drove a Chevrolet Chevette in Sao Paulo, 1.0 liter, very small 4 cylinder engine, great gas mileage, this is what it looked like:

My Chevette was white, it had a 1.0 liter. 4 cylinder engine

It had great gas mileage and a smooth ride

Here I begin to describe our American car history, due to the price of gas and extremely low taxes, we could afford much nicer cars from the get go and we did, every time.
Our first American car in Dallas was a Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue edition, just like the one on the pictures below:

A super quiet 6 cylinder engine is hidden under it's insulated front hood

Awesome luxurious cushy interior

An enormous trunk that you could probably park a Fiat UNO or two inside :)

We really loved this car...I drove it 22 miles each day from Addison, TX, to downtown Dallas and back.
I took the Dallas Express Toll way and it was like floating on clouds to work everyday.
We also drove it to Oklahoma to visit our friends many, many times.
It drives great in snow, it had front wheel drive.
I miss our Chrysler New Yorker, one of my all time favorite cars.
Our 2nd car was an awesome Ford Bronco with a wild stereo system in it, I loved the Bronco because it was a semi convertible pick up truck, the best of both worlds, it had extra large tires and it was raised higher from the ground than the usual Ford trucks, it was an Eddie Bauer edition, nice leather interior and 4X4.

Now, this baby had an 8 cylinder powerful engine and it was 4X4

Our 3rd car was an awesome Mercury Grand Marquis, keep in mind, gasoline was a mere 98 Cents per gallon, it was 1998.
It was the time of innocence, just before 9/11 and it was certainly before the Oil Industry mafia managed to infiltrate a president who worked for them...we would be paying 5 dollars a gallon in just a few years later UGH!!! I better not go there, it still makes my blood boil  : (

Super quiet V-8 engine, powerful yet fuel efficient, ok, not really, but who was counting?

Driving this car was a dream, super smooth ride!

Loved the trunk, you cold park 3 Fiat Unos in it and a Chevrotet Chevette  :)

The Grand Marquis ended an era for us. I got a promotion at work, we were relocated to Boston, 9/11 happened and I drove mediocre company fleet cars for a few years, 3 minivans to be more specific, liked the minivans too. We enjoyed them, not our dog Okie, he vomited every time we forced him in the minivan, Okie still hates minivans but he loves SUVs, principally because he gets an entire seat all for himself plus two windows.
We first drove a black Minivan when we first arrived in Boston, it looked like this:

Our first Ford Windstar looked like this but it was black

Our 2nd Ford Windstar was exactly like this green one on the photo below:

When we got relocated again, to Miami this time, yes, here starts our Florida adventure, it was 2004 and we bought a Ford Explorer Sport, the story of the day we bought the Explorer was very funny.
We told the sales guy we were a gay couple, it was obvious, two guys buying a car together, long story short, we no longer tell people we are cousins or roommates or whatever closeted people still tell people these days... we were shopping around, finally decided on the Silver Explorer so we made an appointment to see the same sales guy again.
Upon our arrival we noticed the guy wearing a PINK dress shirt, really? yeah, really!
Plus, he started using the word "Marvelous" in every other sentence, oh, this car has Marvelous leather seats, Marvelous 4X4, a Marvelous sunroof... UGH!!!
It got on my nerves like nothing else...we had already decided to buy the car because it was exactly what we wanted, not because he wore PINK or said MARVELOUS 100 times.
We never say marvelous by the way, we are both very butch, Gil and I are just not effeminate.
We chuckled over the idiots behavior and bought this beauty anyway:

Loved the Explorer but as soon as we moved to Miami in 2004, we faced two hurricanes and were stranded in South Florida because the Explorer's relatively small gasoline tank offered a very small autonomy, not enough to get us out of dodge on one tank of gas.
Right after the 2004 hurricane season fiasco, we were extremely frustrated with the Explorer's limitations, plus a scandal with the Explorers roll overs, that was it, safety has always been a priority for us.
We ended up driving another Minivan, this time a Dodge Caravan, during a few years when we owed two cars:

The most economical car I ever drove. Seat, steering wheel all in the perfect alignment positions.

We also owed an Infiniti G35 for a brief 6 months. I totally HATED that car. It was too fast and super quiet, I got the 3 first and only tickets of my life. The car was cheaply built and started falling a part quickly...first and last time we ever owed a Japanese rice burner as my brother would call it  :) ... yes, I am car biased, I love Fords and Chryslers.sue me! Here is a picture of our Infiniti:

I don't know if other Nissans are worth anything but the Infiniti was the crappiest car we ever drove
 Soon after that we bought a Ford Expedition, which is a step up from the Explorer, wider, longer and much safer.
We are still driving our awesome Eddie Bauer 4x4 Expedition, it is GREAT for snow driving in New England, here are a few pictures to illustrate it:

600 Miles autonomy with a 27 gallon tank

V8 Engine, this baby has Ford's biggest engine.
 The Expedition was very helpful in driving us out of yet another Florida hurricane in 2005.
It's 27 gallon gasoline tank drove us safely out of Florida, all the way from Tampa, FL to the safety of Atlanta, GA on one tank of gas.
Plus, we were able to bring all of our stuff, with all the extra room, our pets, Okie, Gil's fish tank with his fish and shrimp colonies, plus a few important plants that have been with us for many years, yes, we saved all the living things that surrounded us, thanks to our obnoxiously large Ford Expedition.
Hence our emotional attachment to this car, we could save our little family from the hurricane threat. A Hurricane that never came by the way, it took a sharp turn and missed Tampa in the middle of the night, hitting Orlando head on...well, we didn't know that when we were fleeing for our lives.
We eventually moved back to our home in New England and we still drive the Expedition.
There is one little detail, all of our neighbors are ubber civilized New Englanders who view the Expedition as the most obnoxious, ridiculously large V8 engine as a monster of the road.
Let me explain, yes, it is somewhat politically incorrect, ok, downright wrong, but, BUT, we both work from home and drive very few miles.
Our Expedition is a 2003 model and we just hit 60K miles, very low mileage by the way.
We don't commute to work, we drive around our neighborhood and only leave the house when we have 3 or 4 errands to do all at once, if I travel, the company sends me car service to take me to the Airport and back.
So, Prius drivers, BACK OFF!
If you are driving your tinny ugly Toyota to work everyday you are polluting the air MUCH MORE than we ever will...  : )
We have made peace with our neighbors one at a time, explaining our car situation, I plea our case very convincingly.
First was our neighbor to the right, Mrs. Davis who traded in her Jeep Grand Cherokee for a tiny Volkswagen Rabbit and then our neighbor to the left, Mr. Mahoney, who traded in his super cool gigantic Buick Roadmaster for a Hybrid Toyota Camry, it's getting tougher everyday to owe a large V8 SUV in New England.
Like I said, it's parked in the garage everyday, we DON"T commute to work, now, get off our case. Please!
: )


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Escarole, "Not just for Italians anymore"

"Not just for Italians anymore"

Escarole is my ABSOLUTELY favorite food...very Italian you say, yes, I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I think you can't get any more Italian than that, not even in Italy...ok, ok, just kidding, no really, we are so Italian it hurts, visit Sao Paulo in July and check out this Italian event :

So, as I was saying, I was raised drinking expresso coffee from my baby bottle as so was my brother, my sisters, my husband and everyone I knew growing up in Sao Paulo and coffee didn't make us bounce off the walls, I guess we grew used to it, it was soothing, it was comfort, it was home.
A very important staple in Sao Paulo, ESCAROLA, known in the US as Escarole.

Escarole (Cichorium endiva)
Escarole is a member of the daisy family, and is also known as Batavian endive. It has a bushy head and a slightly bitter taste. It descends from the wild chicory plant, which was first cultivated in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. It is rather high in vitamin A and provides some vitamin C.

Escarole tastes like a slightly bitter lettuce, most people cooked it or in my case, we just throw hot olive oil and roasted garlic over it and mix it well. Usually served with French fries and a meat of your preference, my favorite is a young roasted PIG, yes, the best Escarole I ever ate, I harvested myself at my friend's farm, I used a small kitchen knife to cut the large Escarole head from the red Sao Paulo state rich soil.

This is what the Escarole I harvested looked like.

So. our meal was roasted pork, french fries and Escarole with garlic salad.
That was a very special day and I will it treasure forever.
My friend Gabriela told me the French like Escarole Salad with roasted garlic and french fries, that is a typical french meal, according to her.
However, Escarole is a much more simple and trivial food present at my family's dinner table, we usually eat it with anything, meats, french fries, rice and beans, pasta, lasagna, eggplant Parmesan whatever...there is always an Escarole salad to go with it, as my grandma and mother call it, Fried Garlic Salad or "Salada de alho frito" which is simply Escarole that you throw hot olive oil with roasted garlic crumbs over it and stir it well...
My grandma also likes to eat the "Fried Garlic Salad" with freshly baked french bread as a mid afternoon snack...she usually ate leftovers from lunch.
I am considered a sinner at my house, the black sheep of the family because I dared to prepared our traditional family "Fried Garlic Escarole Salad" with Canola Oil, which I prefer, just in this case, over the so sacred Olive Oil, this is how I make it up to this day, with Canola oil instead of Olive oil, a matter of personal taste.

This is how you see the Escarole in the grocery store

What was my surprise and cheer panic when I first moved to Dallas, Texas in 1998, and realized I couldn't find Escarole ANYWHERE!!! What!!! R u kidding me?
I was upset, you know, trying to adjust to a new life and not finding the comforts of home. I always saw Australian friends of mine in Sao Paulo who missed Vegemite or Americans who missed a certain specific brand of peanut butter ( they weren't big fans of Amendocrem, our local peanut butter) and their friends or parents could always mail them some Jars of Peanut Butter or Vegemite.
But What the Hell would I do about Escarole?????
This is comfort food to me!
The meaning of Escarole for me was far deeper than an exotic Italian vegetable.
Escarole reminded me of my grandma, my mother, weekend with friends at the ranch, vacations on the beach...my childhood, IT WAS MY LIFE MEMORIES!
It should go without saying my shock from the drastic differences between Sao Paulo and Dallas, we had a lot to adjust, a lot, from the extreme ungodly heat to paper thin walls that you could hear your neighbors think...now, the fact that people didn't even know what Escarole was...disturbed to no end...
I have always been an avid and savvy consumer, I know how to get stores to do things for me so I started going from grocery store to grocery store around Dallas, I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that NO ONE even knew what Escarole was...it was really irritating, they treated me as I was from outer space and tried to show me different things that had nothing to do with Escarole.
I went home, googled ESCAROLE, found it, PRINT IT, picture and description, went back to several Dallas stores...
We used to live in the northern suburbs, for someone who knows Dallas, we were in the vicinity of Addison Road and the Addison Airport, Trinity Mills Road, Marsh Lane, Frankfort Road. If you know Dallas you know there are about 5 grocery stores per square mile in that area, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Super 1, Tom Thumb, Winn Dixie, Target Supermarket, Super Walmart and several other local stores. 
I visited grocery stores in North Dallas for about 3 months and one day decided to drive down south towards downtown...my thought was, people downtown must be more international, more cosmopolitan, someone MUST know what a freaking Escarole was...I can't be alone on this one.
I finally found a Produce Manager at a Kroger Supermarket near downtown Dallas who was from BOSTON and just like me, had been raised eating Escarole in New England.
He promptly offered to order Escarole for me and if I managed to buy his inventory, he would keep the order on the automatic system.

Long story short, I was in "heaven", a familiar sight at last, my produce manager-Bostonian friend marked the beginning of my full adaptation into American life.
I started to feel less of a stranger/foreigner...and realized I wasn't as different from Americans as originally thought, I was really different from Texans...and started to find interest in everything New England.

Typical American grocery store produce area, identical to a Brazilian grocery store

After that initial phase of adaptation, our process accelerated.
I decided to use the Escarole example because it is symbolic of all the things and all the processes that we went thru while adapting to our new chosen land.
I am happy to report that we are living in Metro Boston today, EVERYONE knows what Escarole is and I can find it absolutely everywhere short of Dunkin Donuts :)
Today we are happy and fully adapted, hell, we are definitely more Americans than ever, we would have a real hard time re-adapting in Brazil.