Comfort Foods

Blogging like life has its highs and lows.  This week I’ve found it very difficult to come up with a blog topic; it’s not like I don’t have a plethora of topics to talk about, it’s that nothing this week has inspired me. And I’m not saying São Paulo has lost its excitement for me, it’s just nothing happened this week to lend a good story.

So I decided in my depths of despair of writers block to turn to the only real thing that brings me comfort…food. So what does this have to do with São Paulo? Well, finding comfort foods in São Paulo from whatever country you are from can be quite a challenge. As I lay in bed last night I was thinking of all of the daily foods in America that I miss like: English muffins, bagels, tacos, burritos, tortilla chips, apple pie, muffins, hamburgers, alfredo sauce, Reese’s peanut butter cups (I could go on for hours). Some of these things you can actually find in São Paulo while others you either make from scratch or you will never find. And some things I have replaced with my Brazilian favorites like pão de queijo and brigadeiros.

This week my husband took me to a nice grocery store in Jardins neighborhood called Casa Santa Luiza http://www.santaluzia.com.br/.  It is an expensive market but it has a lot of variety of Brazilian brands as well as imports. I was elated when I found a medium size bag of Brazilian brand corn tortilla chips called Garytos http://www.tortillas.com.br/, and they were only R$4,00 or approximately $2.20 dollars. But the grand prize of the trip was that I actually found sour cream.

I love sour cream! Not only do I use it for Mexican dishes like tacos but I also use it for baked potatoes, cooking, dips and baking. Brazilians have not discovered how wonderful sour cream is yet and until this week I have never found it in the grocery store. My quest for sour cream began several years ago when my husband lived in Rio de Janeiro. We went to several stores and never found it, we even went to a Mexican restaurant and asked them where they get theirs and it turns out they make it themselves. One of the chefs at Gringo Café in Rio told me how to make it and I tried it once but it just wasn’t the same. At Casa Santa Luiza we actually found a Brazilian manufacturer of sour cream and guess what the product was called, Sour Cream (In English). The only problem is that this brand cost R$15,00 or $8.30 dollars for a very small tub. Fortunately Casa Santa Luiza also makes their own sour cream called “Crème de leite azedo” and sells it for R$6,00 or $3.30 dollars for a bigger tub than “Sour Cream.”

All I can say is that these two finds at Casa Santa Luiza have brought me a lot of comfort this week! But I would like to hear from you, Brazilians and Americans or whatever country you are from, what are your comfort foods?

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Embu das Artes

Saturday my husband took me to Embu das Artes. Embu is town located about 20 minutes outside São Paulo and its history has led it to be a city of artists. The city was founded in 1554 by Jesuits whose objective was to convert the native people to Catholics. Then in 1937 Cassio M’Boy, a religious sculpture, won first prize at the Exposition Internationel d’Arts Techniques du Paris which began the formation of the city of artists.

Today Embu das Artes, is a cute little town with cobble stone streets and about a hundred little shops. These shops sell anything from repurposed furniture, hand craft home décor, specialty foods, wine, cheese, clothing, and jewelry. In-between the shops along the pathway are about a hundred little stands selling all kinds of hand craft items. The entire town is like a very nice street market.

My husband and I are still trying to furnish our apartment and furniture in São Paulo is expensive. We found several nice pieces at Embu das Artes that were very reasonably priced and made of quality wood. We only bought a couple of nightstands this week because that was all that would fit in our car but we are absolutely going back soon. I definitely recommend this place, even to tourists, because it is a lovely day of shopping with several restaurants for lunch but you must have a car to get there.

Farmer’s Market

I am very lucky because every Wednesday morning there is a little farmer’s market right outside my building. My husband is at work during this time, so last week he called me and said, “Don’t forget the farmer’s market today, go buy us some lettuce and let’s see if you can make it.” I was definitely for the challenge; the first thing I did once I got off the phone was go look up lettuce in Portuguese in my English to Portuguese dictionary (alface).

The farmer’s market starts at the corner of my building on Rua Cayowaa (Cayowaa street) in the Vila Madelena neighborhood. It goes for a couple of blocks down and has exceptional variety considering it is a small market. As I travel down the rows looking for my conquest several of the venders greet me and say “Bom dia” or good morning. Occasionally one of the venders would say something in Portuguese that I didn’t understand and so my response would always be “Não obrigada” (No thank you). My husband later joked when I told him this, “They were probably asking you, What is your name?” And I responded, No thank you.

I finally reached the lettuce and let me just say it was beautiful, all the produce was. I had just bought some rabanete (radishes) from the store for R$3,99 and they were these brown little shriveled things. The rabanete here were plump and reddish pink and only R$3,00. I asked the vender, “Um Alface, por favor” he looked at me for a minute and then said something to another man who helped me promptly.

Unfortunately, lettuce is really all we needed because we had just been shopping on Monday, but comparing the prices with the product I found that this farmer’s market was by far the better deal. So now every week this is where we will get our produce. The only down side to the farmers market is that for one day our corner smells like fish.

Japantown

Japantown is located in the Liberdade neighborhood in São Paulo. Liberdade means “freedom” or “liberty” in Portuguese because the ship that the Japanese took to get to São Paulo was named liberty in Japanese. Japantown is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan in the world and it is a cool place to visit.

My husband took me to Liberdade for sushi and to visit the neighborhood. We had a great lunch and as we walked down the street we stopped in various houseware stores that had really nice hand painted tea sets, sushi plates and statues. Further down the street we stopped in a mini mall that was three levels and jam packed with little shops selling jewelry, comics, action figures, and video games. My husband said that teenagers who were into Emo liked this place but I found it to be comparable to Newbury Comics on steroids. I picked up a couple of trinkets for my cousins back home and we were back on the street.

On Liberdade square a small street fair was taking place as it always does on Saturdays, so if you are into Japanese hand crafts this is the place to go! On the way back to the car we saw several places for Karaoke; so we will definitely have to come back!

Mercado Municipal

It’s been almost two weeks since I left the United States to come to Sao Paulo, Brazil and I am already feeling like this is my home. But to be completely honest I think anywhere my husband is, is my home.

Arriving here last week I was not feeling well and it took me a good three days to shake this cold or jet lag or both. My husband spent the majority of those days working, while I was at home sleeping. And it wasn’t until the weekend that I had my first taste of São Paulo.

On Saturday my husband and I got up early to go meet a couple of friends of ours from Yale who are visiting São Paulo. We drove to the Mercado Municipal de São Paulo (Municipal Market of Sao Paulo), it is an indoor market full of vendors selling everything from fruit and cheeses, to meats and fish. It was Built in the 1930s, and it is a beautiful old building with skylights and stained-glass windows.  It is located in a part of town called 25 de Março (March 25th) which is named after one of the streets. This area is where you can buy anything you can think of for wholesale and in bulk.

As we reached the Mercado Municipal, after many wrong turns, there were swarms of people gathering. Unfortunately, this is not the nicest part of São Paulo so we also saw many homeless there as well. Walking up to the Mercado Municipal my husband explained that this was what Brazilians use to use as their central grocery at the turn of the century because there were not grocery stores, and today it continues to be the city’s largest food and produce market. As we walked around the market my senses were filled with the vast cornucopia of foods, the produce was fresh and the variety was astounding. The place was packed and it was difficult to walk around but looking around you could telling that people were enjoying themselves. I didn’t buy any fruit or meat because we were planning on visiting for a while and I wasn’t sure if it would keep but I did find some chipotle sauce as well as some tahine sauce to make some homemade Hummus.

For lunch we ate sanduiche de mortadela which was a sandwich overflowing with a salami, covered in cheese and smothered in mustard. Delicious! The sandwiches were so large when we were getting ready to leave a homeless man confessed to us that he drank his breakfast and was hungry so we gave him our leftovers. All in all it was a lovely day.