Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving (in Brazil)

Finding ourselves near the end of our time in Brazil, it was a little hard to get into the Thanksgiving spirit this year. Not the giving thanks part. That part is easy, and we do it every day. What I mean to say is that it was hard to get motivated to prep and cook a turkey…wait, I should back track…it was hard to get motivated to find a turkey. That would have taken us on a wild goose…sorry, wild turkey chase…through countless Carrefours, no doubt, and we probably would have ended up with water fowl or a capybara, anyway. Later in the day, Elise told me turkeys were going for the equivalent of $100. No thanks. No, the thought of preparing all that stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole for two boys who take thirty seconds to eat dinner just didn’t hold much appeal for two reasons.

Since we are reaching the end of our time in Brazil, we find ourselves much more wanting to relish every last savory morsel of Brazil and we find ourselves without good friends who we had shared prior momentous meals with; They had already returned to the States before us.

Last year, we were in the States for Thanksgiving and I got to run in the Race for the Pies Thanksgiving Day morning. I’ve long needed to find justification for self-inducing a tryptophan coma, whether that be a long solo ride in the aerobars up Jupiter Island or a local 5k. This year, I thought it a great idea to get a group together to organize what would be the inaugural Brasilia Turkey Trot 5k.

Clementine had other ideas for the morning and decided she needed to take a nap just as we were walking out the door (plus, having already sold the Subaru, we couldn’t fit both jogging strollers in the car we were renting from work). So, I took Sam and Pete down to QL 12 for the Turkey Trot.

The “race” got underway and we blasted out in front, despite the fact that I was pushing a double-wide. One of my colleagues from work was hot on our heels for one mile, which we crossed in a respectable 6:53, but pulled up lame shortly thereafter, complaining of a tight calf. Honestly, I think everyone else turned around, and Sam, Pete and I sailed across the finish line in 1st, 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

After the adult race, the kids lined up behind a tiny orange plastic traffic cone for a loop around the park. Sam and Pete were by far the youngest entrants, but they weren’t about to let their size diminish their enthusiasm. The race began and the older kids burst to the front. Pete took off after them, doing his best impression of the Flash or Cheetah Man, but after ten yards and a feeble, forlorn “Waaaaait!” he stopped, tilted his head toward the sky and started crying. It was at the same time the cutest and saddest thing I had ever seen.

I quickly jogged up next to him. Through sobs he told me everyone had left him behind. I took his hand and told him we could catch them, but he wasn’t interested. He was done. We watched Sam. He was chuffing along, tiny arms pumping, poofy hair bobbing as he made his way along the back stretch, at this point now, himself, very far behind the older kids. But he kept going. In the car on the way to the park, both he and Pete had told me they loved running.

I put Pete down and, hand-in-hand, we ran to meet Sam as he came into the home stretch, cheering him on. As Sam approached, he, too, had tears in his eyes. He stopped and fell into my arms, exhausted. “I didn’t win!” he wailed. “Boobaluh,” I told him, “you did awesome!”  

I’m not exactly sure where he got the idea that he needed to win. Not from his father, of course. Regardless, both boys learned a hard lesson that day: It doesn’t matter what place you come in as long as you participate.

Afterwards, we picked up the girls, Elise and Clementine, to run to the store and pick up some eggs and butter for pumpkin pie. Elise was dead set on making a pumpkin pie, fearing that I would disown her or something if she didn’t make at least one thing seasonal on Thanksgiving, though we had already decided to have a non-traditional meal.

We dressed the boys in polos and took them to Porcao for Thanksgiving dinner in Brazil. Pete was impressed as we were shown to our table. “Wow! This place fancy!” he exclaimed and he ordered his own bebida in perfect Portuguese, “Suco de laranja, por favor.”  I showed them their card and explained to them the difference between the green side which read “Sim! Bring me more meat!” and the red side which read “Não! I couldn’t possibly eat another bite! I feel like I’m gonna throw up! (in best Monty Python accent)” The boys ordered rice, batatas fritas and pasteis. And the garçons began circling with giant spits of meat in one hand and machetes in the other. Pete immediately aceitou sausage. Next came the chicken hearts. Yes, chicken hearts! Mind you it was very clear that only Pete and Sam were eating at this point, so in Brazil, it is entirely reasonable, I presume, for children to eat chicken hearts. I did not know this.

By the end of the meal, both boys had perfectly mastered the use of their tiny tongs to pluck the freshly-carved picanha or fraldinha. The waiter would slice of a hunk of meat, the slice would curl away from the meat, and Sam or Pete’s tiny tongs were there waiting to ferry the meat quickly to their plates.

For dessert, there was banana flambé, but unlike previous visits, they didn’t torch the bananas tableside, which is probably just as well given Petey’s ardent dislike of birthday candles. I would have hated for a full-on banana conflagration to ruin such a perfect Brazilian Thanksgiving. 

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