16 April 2012

Four Typically Brazilian Things We Don't Do Anymore

Those were the days
1. No more caipirinhas — Time was when Mark and I could each drink two of these magic, green potions in one sitting and even contemplate ordering a third. The first two words I learned in Portuguese were "mais uma" (one more), and the "one more" in question was a caipirinha.  I drank caipirinhas in preference to wine, beer, sake or water. I learned the simple recipe of crushed lime (remove the pith!), cachaça and sugar, sugar, and more sugar, so that I could serve the drinks at home. But then, as the years passed, two things happened. My weight began to increase and my ability to enjoy a good night's sleep began to decrease. Caipirinhas might not have been the sole culprits — age and alcohol in general probably had a hand — but we thought it would be a good idea to wean ourselves off. Surprisingly, neither one of us even has a taste for one anymore. We're back to wine, beer, sake and water.

You may start slicing, sir...
...with a little on the side
2. No more rodízios — Before moving to Brazil, our trips here always included several visits to the over-the-top restaurants called rodízios, which serve limitless amounts of grilled meats right off the spit with all-you-can-eat side dishes of french fries, fried manioc, fried bananas, rice, garlicky kale, and with as many trips to a salad/vegetable buffet as you could manage. We gorged on sausage, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef, sirloin and filet mignon (the restaurants serve it more or less in that order, too, in the hopes that the customer is good and satisfied by the time the more expensive cuts arrive at the table). We drank the afore-mentioned caipirinhas. We rolled home and groaned and swore we wouldn't go to another rodízio again. But we always did. Now, however, we find that not only can't we eat that much anymore, we're fairly horrified by the rodízio excesses (okay, okay, except for rodízios of pizza or sushi, which I've convinced myself are less evil).

3. No more trips to Corcovado — Most city dwellers never look up. Parisians hurry past the Eiffel Tower and New Yorkers scurry past the Empire State Building. But cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) go about their business with one eye at street level and the other on the glorious Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado. As tourist attractions go, it's an amazing one. Make the trek up Corcovado Mountain and your reward is a stupendous, jaw-dropping gorgeous view. Mark and I were always eager to shepherd guests up to the top, and enjoy their reactions as well as the view. I think I've been to Corcovado at least three times now, Mark maybe a time or two more than that. But the idea of going up again leaves us cold.  I'm not above admitting to a bit of a blasé, "been-there-done-that" attitude, but don't think that the recent quadrupling of the price of admission is an encouragement, because it isn't. Not to mention the crowds, which have grown so large that the once quick act of buying a ticket and hopping on the cute little train that chugs up the mountain can turn into a four-hour wait in a very long line in very hot sun. We'll still take guests to the ticket window, but we'll wait at the bottom with an ice cold drink, thank you.

Some Hippie Fair goodies from years past
4. No more Hippie Fair — In years past Mark and I never passed through Ipanema on a Sunday without going to the Hippie Fair, a weekly arts-and-crafts event that takes over the Praça General Osório in the heart of this Rio neighborhood. It was a must-do, all the guide books said so. And they were right. We loved it. The wares were unusual, creative and reasonably-priced, and when you were committed to bringing back souvenirs for family and friends it was hands down the place to shop. Over the years we found lots of loot, for ourselves and for others. Well, having not gone for a good long time, Mark and I decided to pay the fair a visit last month. First problem? Parking. Second? Parking. We finally found a spot blocks and blocks away. The exercise would do us good, we said. But when we finally got there and plunged into the fray we could see the change immediately. Fewer artisanal goods, less creativity and more industrially-produced products. The prices? Well, now the "artisans" take credit cards, which they never did before, so that should give you an idea. I still believe it's a great place to go if you've never been before, and you might even find a good deal or an actual artisanal piece. But for now, we're done. Look for us at the antiques building on Siqueira Campos.


  1. Hi there!

    Your account makes me think of my first year in England. Every pub I passed had to be entered and fully appreciated. Every pale ale that crossed my way had to be tasted. As the time went, my taste for those things decreased a little.

    On the other hand, my taste for things like caipirinha and rodízios increased. Every time I visit one here in Brazil, I feel like I am doing it after years of waiting and I enjoy it thoroughly, kind of fearing that I might lose them again eventually.

    Kind of the opposite of adaptation, isn't it?

    Sometimes we abandon our places, but our places don't abandon us.


    1. "Sometimes we abandon our places, but our places don't abandon us."
      Beautifully said! And so very much how I feel much of the time, even as integrated as I am into Brazilian life.