Vergonha

One of the most commonly posted topics on ex pat social media websites in Brazil is reaction to what are seen to be criticisms from foreigners.

At first glance, they can appear to be hasty “How dare You!” protests about innocent comments made by the unwary foreigner and some of them are probably no more than that.

A closer look over a longer period will reveal that a rather strange paradox lies between the commonplace and the absurd.

Take the political situation for example, as a subject that is especially of current interest due to the recent elections, and which is often open to criticism and indeed ridicule, among foreign and national discussion groups alike.

Amid the furore of the latest Presidential race there was much derision about Dilma. She had suffered public humiliation early on in her campaign when she attended the opening match of the World Cup in Sao Paulo when she was subjected to taunts, jibes and derogatory songs chanted by a hostile crowd attending the game.

No wonder that she subsequently steered clear of football until her misguided remarks following the 7-1 massacre from Germany, when she meekly said that Brazilian football needed to change.

As the campaigning period drew towards its climax the press became choked with caricatures of her portrayed as a bumbling fool often prone to hysterical fury when caught out. The talk in the bars and padareias was all about getting rid of her.

It seemed as though no one had a good word to say about her and her party, except for ex president Lula, who could be seen each lunchtime on national television in a rather poker faced presentation, imploring voters to re-elect her.

Meanwhile the political and criminal shockwaves from the recent “Mensalao” scandal that had engulfed the PT party, threatened to include Lula, when a demand was made to freeze his assets while further investigations were carried out.

The polls however, continued to show Dilma in front of her rivals.

This appeared to be in direct contradiction with what people were saying on the streets.

What was going on?

Then after a vote that placed her ahead, but short of an overall majority, the election went towards a second vote with the ousted third place candidate, Marina, (an ex PT minister of the environment), throwing her weight behind the “Get Dilma Out!” campaign.

Despite all of this, and albeit by a tiny margin, she won the election, and we Gringoes expressed our dismay, disbelief, and in some cases our determination to leave Brazil before the ground crumbles beneath us.

The reaction from Brazilian commentators who had read our anguish, was rapid and furious!

How dare we criticise the President who had done so much to improve the lives of poor people!

How dare we bitch about things that were far beyond our understanding?

Rich Gringoes should either keep their mouths shut or get out of Brazil!

We could never really appreciate what it is like to be a downtrodden Brasileiro!

It was as if poverty had been invented in Brazil and only Saint Dilma stood between a glorious future or their return to slavery and annihilation!

No one seemed to notice the volte-face that had taken place, except for a few puzzled commentators.

Could this have been something to do with being ashamed of flying true colours?

I raised this as an issue among friends and social media groups in order to discover whether my hunch was shared by others.

The reaction was mixed, as you might expect, with some who just said that we lived among a bunch of no hopers who could never get out from underneath the sloth and corruption due to their own self interest. To others that could see little advantage in electing Aceio, the runner up, to others who just shrugged their shoulders and said lets get drunk!

There was however one persistent fellow who took great umbrage at our comments and who lambasted us all for bitching about something to do with Brazilian culture which we could never hope to change.

He had hit the nail on the head!

The paradox is not about politics or personalities, or economics, or socio economic circumstances. It is about culture, a culture that has a deep rooted sense of insecurity.

In conversation with a well educated Brasileiro, I discovered that it even has a name; – “Complexo de vira-lata.” Direct translation; – Mongrel Complex.

Now I can hear my old friend Tony Patel, wisely shaking his head and murmuring;- “Marshy ground.”

No one likes to be called a mongrel, and what does that have to do with changing your mind about something?

Let me put it this way:-

You want to appear to be successful, bold, confident and self determined, full of “Bravura”!

The talk is about politics with much anger vented due to failures and broken promises made by the current regime.

You join the bandwagon and before you know it, you are adding to the denunciation, due to your personal frustrations.

Frustrations that are built on, a lack of cash, a lack of education and a lack of opportunity, not because you don’t work hard, but because you were not born among a white skinned family of the ruling classes.

You may not even be able to read or write, and you have a skin colour that will always mark you as being of humble stock.

Then comes the crunch with the obligatory vote and your self interests take control and you roll over.

You voted for Dilma.

Your candidate is elected and someone pokes fun at your decision.

Maybe the embarrassment is only momentary, before rage takes over!

Que vergonha!

© 2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Passeio

I will be away from Brazil during November for the first time in almost eight years. I am expecting to experience some reverse culture shock and some thermal shock too, as my journey will take me first to London and then to Scotland!

It will be an opportunity to see friends and family, some of whom have visited me here in Brazil and others who are forever saying that they will but haven’t got round to it yet.

Apart from renewing old acquaintances and catching up on family news I will be meeting my three grandchildren for the first time!

While I am away I will maintain contact by email of course and will be working on some relevant things to add for my next posts.

Take good care of your selves and until next time. ….Tchau!

Jabuticaba

Also called “Brazilian Grape”, Jabuticaba is one of the most delicious native fruits to be found here and is surprisingly little well known outside of Brazil.
Perhaps this the case due to it being slightly difficult to eat without having to resort to spitting out the seeds!
I have four Jabuticaba trees in my garden. Two are of the pure native species that only fruit occasionally, and two of the cultivars which are smaller plants but fruit prolifically several times per year.

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It is mainly used to make a fruit juice as it does not have much pulp. It is also used to flavour pinga where it is steeped in the alcohol for six months or more, which produces a sweet fruity liqueur.
I just enjoy popping one after another into my mouth and sucking out the juice before ejecting the seed.

Delicious!!!

Pinga

Known more correctly as Cachaca or Aguardente de Cana-de-Acucar, this is Brazil`s national tipple, and many an ardent fan has been toppled by this potent brew.

Distilled from sugar cane juice, traditionally in a small pot still whereas it is known as “artesanal”, and sometimes sweetened, or aged in barrels, or steeped in a variety of fruits, it is much more than the main ingredient in Brazil’s National Cocktail;- Caiperinha.

To begin with I could not own up to the fact that I disliked the taste of Pinga.
It was just too much for my Brazilian drinking companions to take on board, as they obviously simply adored the stuff judging by the vast quantities that they were capable of consuming at all hours of the day. Not that all of them were alcoholics you know, but shall we say, aficionados.

Accustomed as I was to opening hours kept by Public Houses in Great Britain, I found it passé to say the least, that Pinga is consumed by many a Brazilian workman at breakfast time on cold winter mornings. It remains my opinion to this day that alcohol should not be consumed until the sun has passed the yard arm. The afternoon should be reserved for drinking tea, and not until 5-30pm should a glass of sherry be offered.

It is said that Campari, the Italian bitter tasting vermouth, has to be tried three times before you develop an appreciation of it. I found that it took much longer than that to appreciate Pinga, unless it’s strong fiery taste of raw sugar was heavily disguised with lime juice, refined sugar and diluted with plenty of ice.

It is in that fashion that it is easy to develop a liking for Pinga when it is contained within a Caiperinha, and although I prefer my own mix, which uses Sagitaba cachaca, sugar syrup instead of granulated, and lime juice, instead of mashed whole fruit, there are many varieties that I have tasted that are just as delicious, including the use of Caju ,(cashew), fruit instead of lime.

Undaunted by my earlier distaste, I continued to experiment with Pinga, purely in the interest of scientific and literary research you understand. I moved on from 51, (the most popular brand), to Sao Fransisco, and Ypioca. Both of these produce cachaca aged in barrels and it was this “sipping” Cachaca that I became fonder of, although I have to admit that it was rather more the effect that attracted me, rather than the taste, which was only slightly more palatable than the cheaper brands.

Curiosity and encouragement to experiment further, from friends and acquaintances, led me into what I would describe as a Pingeria or Cachaca emporium during a visit to Paraty. The place was literally wall to wall and floor to ceiling in the stuff! My enquiries brought further questions to be answered:- “How much did I want to spend?” “Do you want a recent bottling or something more than ten years old?”

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I was astonished! Here were bottles of Pinga that had price tags equivalent to those on rare bottlings of Scotch Single Malts! But would the taste be in the same league?

I wrestled with temptation to exceed the limit on my credit card and opted for a variety of miniatures, explaining my intent to the sales assistant and requesting his expertise in making a representative selection. After much haggling the price came down to R$100 for ten very small bottles. I could have stocked myself up with 51 for nearly a year!

Several days later in my kitchen at home I sat down with my son and daughter to a little experimentation.

Shot glasses were labelled, a list of subjects tallied, and we turned our backs as my son poured.

Our rules were simple;- each tasting was to be described and then given points out of ten. Once my daughter and I had sampled the first five, my son took his turn. Then we repeated the process with the final batch. Bottled water was on hand for rinsing of glasses and throats.

The subjects tasted, in order, were as follows:-

No.1 Minha Deusa Prata Betin MG 40%
No.2 Claudionor Prata Januaria MG 48%
No.3 Pedra Branca Ouro Paraty RJ 42%
No.4 Matodentro Ouro Paraitinga SP 42%
No.5 Engenho D`Ouro Prata Paraty RJ 45%
No.6 Rochina Prata Mansa RJ 46%
No.7 Seleta Prata Salinhas MG 42%
No.8 Reserva Do Gerente Prata Guarapari ES 42%
No.9 Vale Verde Ouro Betin MG 40%
No.10 Boazinha Ouro Salinas MG 42%

I heartily recommend spending an evening such as we had that night!
It was hilarious to say the least, and although we cannot claim to be experts in the finer points of Pinga, our conclusions were surprisingly similar, even if our descriptions were sometimes less than scientific!

The results were as follows:-

1st – 28 points Pedra Branca – “soft and creamy with tobacco notes”
2nd – 26 points Vale Verde – “suave with tobacco and vanilla notes”
3rd – 22 points Matodentro – “smooth with fruit and banana notes”
4th – 20 points Seleta – “smooth with vanilla and olive notes”
5th – 19 points Engenho D`Ouro – “smooth with salty notes”
6th – 18 points Reserva Do Gerente – “dry with smoky notes”
7th – 17 points Claudionor – “smooth with honey notes”
8th – 14 points Boazinha – “smoky”
9th – 13 points Minha Deusa – “smoky”
The wooden spoon
with only 4 points Rochina – “!”

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I have been kind enough to omit some of the more critical remarks such as;-
“metallic, paraffin, cream soda, nail varnish, plasticy, harsh and raw dung”!

What, might you ask, is my opinion now of the national drink of Brazil?

Well, I certainly have a much better appreciation of the range of quality on offer, and some of it is very good indeed.
However, although I would rather drink Pinga on a cold rainy day than Coca Cola,
in preference I would rather stick to Scotch, especially since I can safely say that I like it’s flavour, and I can pick up a litre of “Bells” for under R$40, compared to over R$200 for some of those in the list above!

We did however, sleep very well that night!

Alastair Kinghorn Copyright 2014

Paraíso na chuva

One of the bugbears of living in the countryside, wherever you might be, is that there are fewer things to do on a rainy day.

I was bored at home so on came the wet weather gear and umbrella in hand I walked the 1 km or so to Pousada Sitio Paraiso.
(www.sitioparaisolmc.com.br )
Here there is a wifi connection and opportunity to access the Internet.

(I don’t have a phone line at home. They promise me one for next year.)

The pousada is deserted today but at the weekend and during the holidays it does a good trade. Offering families and couples an economic way to enjoy a break in the countryside away from big city life.

I include a few photos to give you an idea of what its like.

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