By D. E. Finley
When my husband and I moved to Brazil, everyone told us about how great it was to have your own professional cook. So, we hired one. It was our worst decision, since we invested in Enron.
First, there was the introductory meeting between our translator, Claudia, and our cook, Bruna to explain the preliminaries. Claudia translated how we like our vegetables steamed lightly, el dente. Bruna translated this to mean lightly pureed, mushy, and pale. Claudia instructed that we use very little salt and fat. So, Bruna measured little” as in Little Italy, New York amounts.
Claudia said that our favorite foods were quesidias, shepherds pie, and New England clam chowder with Boston brown bread. Understandably, they were foreign to Bruna. Bruna replied that her specialties were tapioca rolls, feijoada, and heart of palm tortes, which were non-staples to us. That’s when Claudia got the great idea that she could spend unlimited, billable hours helping me translate my favorite recipes from English to Portuguese.
“It will be fun!” Claudia exclaimed, making us wonder if “fun” in Portuguese meant lucrative.
Deciding on recipes also meant that I had to determine whether or not the stores carried the products. Several times a week, I’d go on a shopping safari to try to find as much as possible on the recipe list. Instead of flying back to the US to shop at Whole Foods or Albertson’s for foods like dried cranberries for muffins, and Rice Krispies for marshmallow treats, we learned to make due. We posted pictures of unpreparable recipes on the refrigerator, and licked them every time, we got a craving.
Getting the right amounts wasn’t easy either. Once, I thought that I was asking for hamburger for six persons, and the butcher fixed me six packages. I didn’t have the heart not to buy it all, especially after waiting forty minutes, and having my ice cream melt.
We also had to invest heavily in cabinet, freezer, and dishwasher space for microwavable, zip lock containers. Our dogs Rocky and Baylor would steal them to use as chew toys – especially, when they were on the counter with food in them that Bruna was cooling.
Bruna’s main seasoning repertoire consisted of Sazon packets (99.9% salt) and bay leaves. Fortunately, our landlord gave us the okay to plant a bay leaf tree in our back yard. Bruna also liked using red wine, although, we could never spot it in the dishes, only on her breath. We also wondered why we never saw mushrooms in the stroganoff, since we were reimbursing her for pricey mushrooms that she purchased from a guy in a favela alley (Brazilian low income housing project).
If Bruna was in a hurry to start the weekend, sometimes on a Monday, she’d leave all the food in the oven, figuring it would somehow finish cooking by its self. Sometimes, it would be pre-al dente as in raw or mooing, and other times, it would turn into a dehydrated meal to take on camping trip.
The hardest part of Bruna’s cooking for us was hearing my husband complain every night about the results of that cooking.
“Let’s just wait for the food to go through puberty, and breed in the refrigerator,” he whined. “She’ll get the idea.”
I thought he was being too negative. Then, he continued on his second course of criticism. “We can give Bruna a power saw, and ask her to slice the roast that she cooked into petrified wood.”
Then came the nightcap, “I don’t understand how she can take an expensive piece of meat and turn it into a deadly weapon.”
After our part-time maid, Dialinda, sampled Bruna’s culinary prowess, she started brown bagging her lunch. The only one who seemed to really enjoy Bruna’s cooking was our foodaholic dog, Rocky. Rocky ate almost anything with a calorie no matter how tough, burnt, or flavorless. So, when Rocky stopped stealing her food, we knew it was time to say good-bye to Bruna.
Copyright D. E. Finley 2005.
D.E. Finley is a writer and graphic artist. You can visit her website at http://defDesigns.com
To read previous articles by D. E. Finley click below:
Brazil Humour: Pet Sitting
Brazil Humour: Driving in Campinas
Brazil Humour: Lighting Up
Brazil: Going to the US Consulate
Brazil: Advice to Dialinda
Brazil: Feijoada Anyone?
Brazil Life: Winter in Brazil
Brazil Life: Home Safe Home
Brazil Life: Hose Shopping
Brazil Life: In-Laws In Town
Brazil Life: Got Floss
Brazil Life: Hiring a Maid
Brazil Life: Brazilians are so Nice
Brazil Life: Gringa Goes Shopping at Carrefour
Brazil Life: Amazon Encounter Lodge Vacation
Brazil Life: Keeping Track of My Purse“