terça-feira, 3 de fevereiro de 2009

There’s a very beautiful and talented young North American lady named Misha, who is currently visiting Brazil as one of the International Rotary Clubs undertakings. The Rotary sponsors very creative and imaginative exchange programs for young students in their teens.


Brazilians are very accustomed to beauty in women, inasmuch as they have produced several Miss World and Miss Universe winners. Most of them had come from European genetics. My particular favorite region is the southern portion of Brazil with all of its gorgeous Gauchas (Brazilian cowgirls . . . the farmer’s daughters). In fact this was the first place or region I came to know in Brazil. It’s an area famous for its beef production and I recall a young beef-fed lass remarking that her beauty came from the fact that she ate the best beef of her region. I am absolutely sure that there are gorgeous vegetarians as well, although I’ve never conducted a study of those statistics.


Misha is blond with deep green eyes and her 18 years surely does not distract from her beauty. So you could imagine a herd of country bumpkins from Minas Gerais and its interior to be drooling over this young and earnestly kind ocular feast. Although boys are attracted to her, The Rotary prohibits and discourages any option of independent dating during these exchanges.


As unsettling as these overtures might be to Misha, she has experienced a loving and caring reception (Brazilians are extremely warmhearted in general) in addition to the sincere attempts by her host families to make her feel welcomed and to make sure that she wouldn’t want for anything as long as they had the means to provide. Misha is already starting to dread the day she has to leave this wondrous new land. She misses her family in the States; however, she is going to experience and is already starting to dread the onset of “saudade.”


[Phonetically: Sal (like the shortened form of “Sally”) dodge (like “dodge ball”) gee (like the letter “g” of the alphabet] “sal-dodge-gee”


Brazilians brag about this word (saudade) as being solely Brazilian and have been told that this word has no English equivalent. Those of us who understand both idioms (and are older than 50) know that there is a word in English that has become almost extinct. That word is “pining” and it is simply a nostalgic “longing” for a thing, place, time, song, era, person or situation that one remembers with great fondness to the point of missing it and wanting vigorously to experience it again even if it is only as a memory.


From Webster’s Dictionary (1913)


3. To languish with desire; to waste away with longing for

      something; -- usually followed by for.


I personally pine and long for that old girlfriend’s kiss while parking at Rice’s Pond when I was seventeen, but even more . . . I pine over not being seventeen any more. I pine over a seventeen year old youth’s dreams of being a successful big band leader and jazz soloist when he finally has grown up and is ready for the “big league.” I pine over my mother’s Hungarian goulash (and she wasn’t even Hungarian). I pine over my first “razor cut” in an actual men’s hair stylist salon. I pine over the Breyers ice-cream the soda jerk used to make my hot-fudge sundae. I pine over the word “soda jerk” and soda fountains and phosphates in different flavors and colors.


I remember returning to Rio after many years of being abroad and sitting at the bar in the Grand Hotel San Francisco listening to a fantastic classical guitarist who sang bossa novas and sambas that stirred up such memories . . . all of which made me weep with such happiness and joy. That’s my “saudade” and you can’t have it!


Brazilians cannot write a letter to old friends and family members without telling them how they sorrowfully miss them and that they have such a large “saudade” for them and this must be said several times for emphasis. “Homesickness” is also “saudade,” but the deeper meaning is still “to pine over” . . . to greatly desire that thing over which you are pining almost to the point of fanaticism.


I have a theory that the reason why we long for the past (and the events and people we find there) is because we made it though that same past and we are still here to remember it . . . to plant our flag on it! We succeeded! We made it! We don’t recall the pain. We don’t have any nostalgic longing for failure, yet the good parts are pleasing to our memory. We remember and embrace these pleasing and gratifying times, things, events and people in a sort of positive reinforcement that our lives are good and have been worthy to be lived . . . that we can survive our future using our past as proof. We re-live these times, places and events constantly. On occasion, “saudade” or “pining” is the only thing that comforts my being away from Brazil for such prolonged periods. I may spend more time away from Brazil than I would desire, yet I find promise in my “saudade” and use it and these articles to give me something to hold onto. I hope that doesn’t sound too saccharin or self-serving.


When my Brazilian friends travel to other countries, they experience an extreme dietetic “saudade.” They can’t find “farinha de mandioca” which is a course meal made from ground yucca root also know as “manioc.” It is a staple to all Brazilian diets (even though they may be ashamed to admit it at times) and is used as a thickening agent in making various specialty dishes.

In Vitoria, Espirito Santo and as well as Bahia it is used to makes a “pirão” or reddish seafood paste used in the very specialized dish called a “moqueca” which is simply a fish stew baked in a tempered black clay covered dish with shrimp, garlic, onions, tomatoes and cilantro (lots of fresh cilantro) as seasoning. The fish may be jumbo shrimp, Seabass or various other warm water fish found in the regional waters offshore. “Eye of the Hound” and “Eye of the Bull” are excellent moqueca fish as well. I better stop talking about food, because now I am feeling a saudade coming on. But I cannot stop!


Some very odd things that bring on “saudade” are specialty dishes . . . codfish dishes . . . like “torta de bacahlao.” This is a codfish cake made at Easter time and it obviously uses Cod as its main ingredient. Cod is neither a warm water fish nor native to Brazilian waters, so it is imported as a dried and salted fish from Portugal which also has no native Codfish. The Cod is from Norway and for the love of me I have no idea how it became so popular in Brazil unless it was heavily traded in Europe and the tradition carried forth to the new world. Today there is very little Codfish available in Brazil due to the prohibitive costs in harvesting and exportation, so “Saith” is commonly substituted. You figure it out; it’s giving me a migraine. How dare Brazilians have a “saudade” about Codfish? It’s crazy. Right?


Another food that a Brazilian might feel “saudade” over is “carne seca” or “carne do sol.” Each is a form of jerked beef. It is often eaten with fried “aipim” which is part of the “mandioca” family. Obviously this jerky is a hangover from colonial times before refrigeration came on the scene.


“Feijoada” is about the worlds most famous Brazilian “saudade” dish and is commonly made with black beans and every part of the hog (except for the squeal) as a form of seasoning. This traditional Saturday feast brings drool to the mouth just in thinking of it and is only enhanced when served with seared “couve” (extremely thin fried strips of fresh collard greens) “arroz tropeiro” (a rice dish that carries back to mule skinners who first made this dish while transporting farm produce to major towns and cities). “Farinha de mandioca” is used for thickening the juicy and succulent blacks beans are dished out of small black clay pots where they have been steeping are either served over the traditional white rice or along side of the soft and separate mounds of stuff that North Americans will never learn how to make and then gradually incorporated during the feeding frenzy. There’s “pimenta malageta” (watch out for hot pepper burns) and small fried cubed pieces of fatback bacon or salt pork is added for flavor, texture and color. Fried plantains (“banana da terra”) are served as a side dish while sliced and peeled oranges are served on the side as well. There really is no end to this feast. You find Boston lettuce on the table as well as neatly chopped tomatoes, green peppers and onions ala vinaigrette. And no Brazilian table would be complete without the mandatory can of Portuguese olive oil (any other type would be an effrontery to a true Brazilian). Everything is a matter of personal taste and regional customs and I’m sure I omitted many other items. This is all I can remember off the top of my “old bean” (no pun intended).


Brazilians in foreign countries will practically “kill” for these things in order to placate their “saudade.” A common phrase is, “I finally killed what was killing me!”  . . . of course referring to that particular “saudade.”


There are two other things that are generally part of the “saudade list” of displaced Brazilian nationals: “Futbol” and “Samba.” I don’t believe this needs translating or explanation.


The last item of “saudade-dom” (a word I just invented) to complete this “incomplete list” of the longings of our displaced brothers and sisters is “cachassa, pinga or mé” (Brazilian “white lightning”) accompanied with loud and enthusiastic singing of carnival hits while semi-inebriated . . .  not always . . .  but it does help. Everyone else makes rhythms with improvised percussion instruments (my favorite instruments are my car keys). Oh yes! . . . At these times the famous homemade “churrasco” (Brazilian barbeque) takes place. (Churrasco will be discussed at a later time, as it is a whole topic onto itself.)


It’s all a very Bohemian thing to do!!!!


The strange thing about Brazilians in foreign lands is that they don’t ban together very well, unless there’s a lot of family involved in their displacement. I don’t believe I have ever seen a Brazilian ghetto in other countries. However, all of the things that I have listed as part of this “saudade list” do bring all of us together at times . . . just a small festival to declare our heritage ever so infrequently.


I don’t want to leave you with the impression that Brazilians act this way normally. In Brazil these things are readily available and so there is no “saudade;” however, in the absence of these things “saudade” then happens and it must be killed by all means.


In Novo Cruzeiro (a small village in the mountains of the state of Minas Gerais) they still are talking about the crazy “gringo” who setoff a most elaborate fireworks display on July 4th of 1989 when there wasn’t even a soccer game going on. You should have heard the “oooos” and “ahhhhhs.”


O, meu Brasil!!!! Que saudade que tenho!!!

Autor: Dean Weston
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