The summers I spent in Brazil were some of the best times of my life. Small-town living is good for the heart, the mind, the soul and the stomach. I had a routine. Early in the morning I’d wake up and and have real coffee, made with a cloth coffee strainer and water that had been boiled on the stove. There was fresh bread on the table thanks to the person who woke up even earlier than myself to buy the bread, usually a young housekeeper. She could find the bread money in a tin set on top of my grandmother’s fridge. After a filling breakfast of bread, cheese, fruits and all sorts of yummy cookies and crackers I’d set off to the local market. I forgot to mention cheese bread. The mayor’s wife sold cheese bread from the front door of their home. In the morning there were people lined up for her bread. My life’s goal at that time was to get my hands on the recipe. No such luck. She’s still alive so i’m hopeful.
One thing I remember is that there were barely any leftovers after breakfast…and sometimes, if you woke up too late…there was no bread left. Pão de Sal. (Salt bread) Basically a baguette.
The street market was a place where people set up their make-shift tents to sell all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I never really liked the meat market section. A little too bloody for my taste. But the fruits, vegetables, cheeses and sweets. Ohhhhh…so beautiful. In case you’ve never seen a real fruit or vegetable, grown on a small farm or family garden, they do have flaws. They aren’t perfectly round or shiny. They sometimes still have dirt on them. Crazy concept, isn’t it?
After an hour or two at the market, I’d walk back to my grandmother’s house and make a few stops along the way to say hello to people standing at their doorsteps in the high-noon heat. One of those passes was my boyfriend’s house. His mom was a social butterfly and loved to talk. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and a trickle of sweat ran down my back. The streets, normally bustling with bicycles, cars, and motorcycles between 8 a.m. and noon, became deathly quiet at lunchtime. The town’s residents were home having lunch. Then came the siesta. A good book in my hand and the rattle of the ceiling fan initiated the siesta process.
Sometimes, while everyone, including the dogs, slept (I’ve never been much of a sleeper), I stood in the kitchen and baked. Yes, at 15 I was already fascinated with the kitchen. I credit my Brazilian friends and family for first introducing me to good food. While they were belly up and snoring in the hot and arid heat, I was in the kitchen, usually chatting with the housekeeper. She’d watch me as if I were from outer space, kind of admiring me. Our clothes were different than theirs. (I thought I was tacky) Being an “American” was a big deal back then. I was often asked to say things in English or translate songs. People asked about my clothes. They loved jean jackets and Nike sneakers.
A few hours later it was time for afternoon coffee. Brazilian’s call it the “lanche”. More coffee, more bread. There was always a cooler full of beer in the kitchen. The fridge was too small to fit beers and they didn’t got cold enough like they could in a cooler. Brazilians like their beer ice cold. If you want to make a Brazilian happy, offer him a bottle of beer that’s coated with an opaque frost.
Soap operas began around six, just as the sun began to hide beneath the horizon. No one left the house for a drive around town or a stroll through the town center until the last soap opera of the evening had aired. Nights were fun. Beers at the “Cais”, luaus on the beach, themed parties at the social club, ranch parties. The walk down the “cais” was my favorite. The word cais means boardwalk or dock. Sunrises on the cais were unforgettable.
All this reminiscing and I forgot why I began this blog entry. Oh, yes. The sanduiche natural or natural sandwich. Manoel, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to the sanduiche natural when we were at the beach. He called over a street vendor and bought one for me. It was such a fresh tasting sandwich. I am happy that I was able to replicate the taste with the recipe you see below. We can replicate, reproduce and re-experience many things in life. There are others that will only leave memories. Manoel and I had plans to meet again just as we had many times over the years. He left this world too soon and with him took that beautiful smile and warm hug that will never be replicated. Maybe this blog entry wasn’t about the natural sandwich, after all.
Seasoned, cooked and shredded chicken breast
Finely chopped onion
Chopped cilantro and green onion
Canned sweet corn (drained)
In a bowl stir together all the ingredientes except the bread and romaine lettuce. Spread the mixture on a slice of bread. Top with tomato slices and romaine lettuce and another slice of bread.
Lembro muito das melhores épocas de minha vida quando eu passava as férias no Brasil. Provei o meu primeiro sanduiche natural na praia de Januária. O vendedor gordinho carregava um isopor com alça no ombro. Ele veio em nossa direção. Com aquele sorriso carinhoso o Manoel comprou o sanduiche e me ofereceu. O sabor do sanduiche era tão perfeito. Os ingredientes combinavam tão bem. Quase tão bem como eu e o Manoel combinavamos. Fiquei com aquela lembrança na memoria para sempre. Passaram muitos anos e foram muitas férias em Januária. Lembro do Manoel e de nosso ultimo encontro. Ele usava uma calça jeans, camisa azul e botas. Estavamos na porta do escritório dele. Recebi um abraço forte. Me senti feliz e protegida.
Peito de frango temperado, cozido e desfiado
Coentro e cebolinha picada
Milho verde enlatado
Pão de fôrma
Tomate em rodelas
Misture todos os ingredientes exceto o pão e a alface numa tigela. Passe o recheio numa fatia de pão de fôrma. Forre com tomate e alface e a outra fatia de pão.