My wife, Juliana was born and raised in Brazil and has been living in the US for 10 years now. Before Juliana, I can honestly say I never met a Brazilian or heard a word of Portuguese, outside of Family Guy mocking the language. After being with her now for almost 2 years, I think one of the things I love about her most that she is culturally different than me. Her life is full of experiences and traditions that are the complete opposite of my WASPy upbringing. While she has completely acclimated to the US and speaks flawless English, in addition to her native Portuguese as well as Spanish, sometimes she has a serious case of saudade (sow-dah-jee) #portugueseishard.
Over the course of our relationship, I’ve had the chance to learn a little Portuguese and I’ve discovered that there are many expressions in the language that we simply don’t have in English. If you typed saudade into Google translate, it would spit out “missing” in English. This simply doesn’t do it justice at all. The way my wife explains it, saudade is more a state of being than merely missing something. It’s a feeling of loss and nostalgia for the way a certain thing made you feel and linking your senses to that experience that is missed. We just don’t have words like that in English.
Just a few weekends ago, we were returning from a trip to the Statue of Liberty with the boys. Juliana asked if we could stop by a Brazilian grocery store in New Jersey that wasn’t far out of the way. I could tell she was feeling homesick and I knew the diversion would cheer her up. We walked into the store and her whole demeanor shifted completely. Even this white boy felt the warm and fuzzy Brazilian culture emanating from the store. The store owners began speaking to her and asking her where she was from, and where she lives now, as if they had known her her whole life.
As we raced down the aisles, our cart filled up quickly with the following:
- Pão de Queijo (cheese bread)
- 3 Corações Café Extraforte (3 Hearts Coffee, extra strong)
- Sonho de Valsa (Dream Waltz, little hazelnut, chocolate and wafer candies)
- Picanha (sirloin cap steak)
- Pastéis (fried thin pie crust stuffed with cheese, meat, or just about anything)
- Guaraná Antartica (soft drink made with guarana berry flavors)
The very next day, Juliana decided that it was going to be “Brazilian Night” at our house. Before I get into describing the meal she prepared, let me put it in the context of understanding exactly where Juliana grew up. Just like here in the US, Brazil is made up of different states, all with difference cuisines and traditions. She grew up in two states: Minas Gerais and
Goiás. Minas Gerais is known for it’s food traditions, the highlights of which are the 3 Cs – Coffee, Cheese, and Cachaça (liquor made from sugarcane…watch out). Goiás on the other hand isn’t really known for its culinary traditions but if you had to pick a highlight, it would be their beef. As a side note, if you have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, do it right away; you won’t be sorry…at least until the meat sweats kick in.
Now that had a quick tour of where Jules grew up, Brazilian Night will make a little more sense. The Bossa Nova channel was selected on Pandora, and she began to whiz around the kitchen. First, she started with the staple of any meal: arroz e feijão (rice and beans). Any Brazilian will tell you that a meal is not a meal without rice and beans.
After starting the rice and beans, she put the cheese bread in the oven, and started to grind garlic and parsley with a mortar and pestle to make a rub for the steak, which she marinated for a while. She also diced up potatoes, green beans and carrots, mixed them with mayo and chilled them in the fridge as a variation of salad. While we were eating this dinner, the smile on her face made me understand exactly what saudade means. It was so good, in fact, we’ve subsequently made it two more times since! By the way, she’s promised to shoot a video on how to cook all of these things for you at a later date so stay tuned!
So to wrap it up, I love my wife and I love that this gringo got grafted into such a great culture. Saudade is a very real thing, folks. It can go beyond food too, by the way. I know I have a feeling of saudade for my mom’s Johnny Cakes, or my grandmom’s Sunday Roast Beef, or throwing a baseball with my grandpop. It doesn’t always have to be food, but with Grosses, it usually all boils down to that. What things make you have a feeling of saudade?
If you wanted to bring out your inner Brazilian and try some of the things I mentioned, here are some suggestions on Amazon. If I can recommend anything, get the coffee because you won’t be sorry. We drink that stuff every day, and for how cheap it is, you won’t go back to Starbucks…trust me.