Giving Thanks in Firenze ~ Dia de Ação de Graças em Firenze

Rivoire's Cioccolata Calda Con Panna, Photo by Priscillakittycat

Rivoire’s Cioccolata Calda Con Panna, Photo by Priscillakittycat

It’s time for a change of scenery.  A super cheap ticket on Air Berlin.  An offer too good to turn down.  After 40 plus years of Thanksgiving at home, Firenze is where this gal is headed.

They say it’s really pretty in Florence during the holidays, with the Christmas lights and all.  I’ll get my Christmas shopping done there.  And…the stores won’t be crowded.  It might be possible to squeeze in a cooking class or two.  I can also practice my Italian!  “Come ti chiami?” My Italian Professor will beam with pride.  It will be very cold and it might rain.  A hot chocolate from Caffe Rivoire will keep the body warm.  And there, in the Piazza della Signoria, I can check in on my favorite naked men.  So lovely to see them at night.  Calm down!  They’re not real naked men.  Just type “Piazza della Signoria” in Google and you’ll see.  It’s art!

Ta na hora de mudar de ambiente.  Um bilhete quase dado na Air Berlin.  Uma oferta imposivel de rejeitar.  Depois de ter passado mais de 40 anos em casa para os feriados de Ação de Graças, esta menina vai para Firenze.

Me disseram que a Firenze é linda na época de Natal.  A cidade fica cheia de luzes.  Lá eu posso fazer as compras de Natal.  Posso andar a pé e não tem filas grandes nas lojas.  Posso praticar o Italiano.  A fessora vai ficar muito satisfeita.  Vai fazer frio e provavelmente vai cair uma chuvinha gostosa.  Vou lá na Caffe Rivoire para tomar um chocolate quente.  Marvilha!! E na mesma Piazza della Signoria posso encontrar com os meus homens pelados.  Calma.  Antes de entrar em pânico e achar que a moça endoidou, faça uma pesquisa no Google…”Piazza della Signoria”.  São obras de arte!


Pan Seared Scallops with Maradol Papaya Salsa ~ Vieiras na Chapa com Molho de Mamão

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by

This is a great summer salad.  (Yes, it’s still summer in Florida.)  You can eat it alone as a main dish or as a side dish.  The salad paired really well with the codfish recipe shown below.

Maradol Papaya Salsa
1 cup diced Maradol Papaya
1 cup diced sweet bell peppers
1 shallot, diced or 1/2 small onion, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced

Combine diced sweet pepper with maradol papaya (diced).  Add all the other ingredients and stir.  Set aside while cooking the scallops.  Heat a heavy frying pan to high and add a pat of butter and a teaspoon of oil.  Add scallops to the pan and sear them.  After a couple of minutes turn the scallops and cook for another few minutes.  When done squirt the juice of remaining 1/2 lime used for the salsa.  (I used more lime)  Serve on a bed of your favorite greens.

Esta salada de vieiras com mamão é ótima para o verão e combina bem com o Bacalhau com Natas.

Molho de Mamão
1 mamão picado em cubos
1 copo de pimentão doce picado em cubos
1 cebola (shallot) picado em cubos
1/4 copo de coentro fresco picado
Sumo de um limão

Junte o pimentão doce com o mamão picado.  Adicione todos os outros ingredientes e misture.  Reserve enquanto prepara as vieiras.

Esquente, no fogo alto, uma panela e coloque manteiga e um pouco de azeite (uma colherzinha).  Adicione as vieiras e passe por uns minutos.  Vire e passe o outro lado.  Coloque poucas vieiras de cada vez porque se colocar muitas, elas cozinham ao inves de ficarem assadas.  Esprema um pouco de limão por cima de cada uma.

Forre o prato de salada com alface e coloque a mistura de mamão por cima e depois as vieiras.

Codfish with Cream ~ Bacalhau com Natas

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Carla Schulz

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Carla Schulz (On YouTube)

I tried this dish for the first time in Portugal.  It’s very impressive.  If you plan to entertain guests on a particular evening and need a one dish meal that will have people rubbing their Buddha bellies, this is it.  You can serve a salad on the side, if you’d like.

The Codfish with Cream can also be a Sunday afternoon dish with a soccer match to follow.  I searched the internet for some “how to” videos and found a few.  Around 12 noon I chose the one that seemed less complicated…then went to the supermarket to pick up the missing ingredients.  At 1:30 p.m. I began to prep and by 4:00 p.m. we were enjoying ourselves at the table.  It’s a really good recipe.  Will definitely make this one again.


Salted and dried codfish, soaked in water overnight.  Change the water at least 3 times to re-constitute and remove the salt.
1 kg potatoes, cut into cubes or rectangles
2 onions, halved and sliced
125 ml olive oil
200 ml of the water you used to cook the codfish
250 ml milk
250 ml whipping cream
40 g flour
40 g butter
Enough oil to fry the potatoes
Enough grated cheese to cover the dish

First cut all the ingredients as directed above (potatoes, onions, garlic).  Set aside.  Lay the codfish filets in a pot that has a lid.  Then pour boiling hot water over the codfish-enough to cover the fish.  Cover with the lid and let stand for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile you can lightly fry the potatoes and place them on paper towels to drain.  The potatoes shouldn’t be crispy or golden.  They should just fry enough to soften.  Now heat the olive oil in a separate pan and add the onions and garlic.  Cook until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and set aside. Remove the codfish from the water and break into pieces.  Set aside the codfish as well as the water.

To make the Bechamel Sauce, place the butter in a pot and let melt.  Once melted, add the flour and stir well.  Begin adding the codfish water, little by little and stir continuously.  When the mixture looks like a paste or mashed potatoes, add the milk.  Stir and add the whipping cream.  Stir until the sauce thickens a bit.  Add some nutmeg. Stir.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Lightly saute the codfish in some of the oil that comes from the onions.  Add the onions, then the potatoes.  Stir and saute for about 6 minutes.  Add half the Bechamel Sauce and stir.  Pour the codfish mixture into an oven-safe dish, pour on some more of the Bechamel Sauce and top with grated with cheese.  Cook on 375F until golden on top.  Serve and enjoy!

Provei este prato pela primeira vez no Portugal.  Que delicia.  Tá aqui um prato bom para servir num jantar de amigos ou numa tarde de domingo…antes (ou depois) dum jogo de futébol.  Se quizer pode servir com uma salada simples.  Não precisa de mais nada.  Dá para fazer este prato em poucas horas.


Bacalhau (coloque de molho na agua durante a noite para tirar o sal)
1 kg de batatas cortadas em cubos ou em retangulos
2 cebolas partidas no meio e fatiadas
125 ml olive oil
200 ml da água em que foi cozido o bacalhau
250 ml de leite
250 ml de creme de leite
40 g farinha de trigo
50 g manteiga
Suficiente azeite para fritar as batatas
Suficiente queijo ralado para cubrir o prato na hora de assar

Primeiro corte todos os ingredientes como mencionado acima.  Coloque as postas de bacalhau numa panela funda e cubra com água fervida.  Cubra a panela com a tampa e deixe durante 20 minutos.  Enquanto isso frite as batatas no azeite até ficarem moles mas não deixe dourar.  Coloque no papel toalha para escorrer.  Esquente o azeite de oliva numa outra panela e coloque o alho e a cebola para amolecer.  Desligue o fogo.

Retire o bacalhau da água e desfaça as postas.  Deixe de um lado.  Reserve a água.

Para fazer o molho Bechamel, coloque a manteiga numa panela no fogo e deixe derreter.  Adicione a farinha e misture sem parar.  Adicione a farinha e continue misturando.  Adicione a água em que cozinhou o bacalhau, misture até ficar consistente.  Depois adicione o leite e em seguida o creme de leite.  Misture até engrossar um pouco.  Jogue um pouco de noz moscada no molho, misture e retire do fogo.

Aqueça o forno (375F).  Refogue o bacalhau rapidamente, com um pouco do óleo em que cozinho a cebola.  Adicione as batatas e a cebola.  Misture durante uns 5 minutos.  Adicione a métade do molho bechamel.  Misture e coloque numa travessa/pyrex.  Cubra com mais molho bechamel e coloque queijo ralado por cima.  Asse no forno até dourar por cima.  Sirva e desfrute!!

Raspberry Clafoutis ~ Clafoutis de Framboesa

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Food & Wine Magazine.

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Food & Wine Magazine.

Pretty Woman.  One of my favorite scenes is when Julia Roberts, who plays Vivian Ward, is feeling down and is convinced that her heart will be broken.  Vivian’s friend, Kit, tries to cheer her up.  Vivian asks for the name of one person for whom the fairy tale came true.  Kit puts all her thoughts into finding a name and comes up with:  “Cinde-f***ing-rella!”

Lamenting a loss.  I plug along at work.  I meditate my way to reality and run miles and miles until my body begs me to stop…then I prepare a rescue package of the French form – Raspberry Clafoutis.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 pints raspberries (3 cups)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter a 9-inch gratin dish.  In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt.  Whisk in the eggs, butter and lemon zest until smooth.  Add the milk and whisk until light and very smooth, about 3 minutes.  Pour the batter into the gratin dish and top with raspberries.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the clafoutis is set and golden.  Let cool slightly.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges and serve.

Lembra do filme da Julia Roberts com o Richard Gere?  Pretty Woman.  A cena melhor do filme é quando a Julia, que faz o papel de Vivian Ward, pergunta para a amiga, Kit, se ela tem um exemplo de final feliz na vida real.  A amiga fecha os olhos e convoca toda a energia para pensar num nome…e a resposta vem.  “Cinde–f***ing-rella”!

Pensando no que perdi, aturando a rotina de trabalho, meditando para voltar à realidade e correndo kilometros e mais kilometros até o corpo dizer basta…O resgate vem em forma de um doce Frances – Raspberry Clafoutis.


1/2 copo de farinha de trigo
1/4 copo mais 2 colheres de açucar
3 ovos grandes
3 colheres de manteiga sem sal, derretida
Raspas de um limão inteiro
1/4 copo mais 2 colheres de sopa de leite
3 copos de framboesas
Açucar de confeiteiro para polvilhar

Aqueça o forno (350F).  Unte um pyrex com manteiga.  Numa tigela bata a farinha, o açucar e uma pitada de sal com um batedor.  Adicione os ovos, a manteiga derretida e as raspas de limão e bata druante 3 minutos.  Despeje no pyrex e coloque as framboesas por cima.

Asse por 30 minutos, até o clafoutis dourar.  Deixe esfriar um pouco.  Polvilhe com açucar de confeiteiro e sirva.

Hurricane Preparedness ~ Preparativos Para o Furacão

Slow Cooker Garlic Ale Beef Sliders, Recipe by Sarah Olson

Slow Cooker Garlic Ale Beef Sliders, Recipe by Sarah Olson


There’s a radar image of the hurricane rain bands on the TV screen.  The newsflash banner at the bottom of the screen scrolls through all the closures, including the airport and schools.  The tolls have been lifted on all roadways.  Not much to do but wait for the Cat 4 Matthew to grace us with his presence.  It appears that the Miami area will not be impacted as much as we thought.  We’re safe and we’re home.  Food is a big part of the hurricane preparation process so let’s try a new recipe.  Crock pot recipes are good for hurricanes because you can secure the house, bring in the patio furniture and potted plants…while the meat cooks slowly.

1 three-pound beef chuck roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 red onion, sliced
1 cup Italian dressing
1 cup beer
2 bay leaves
slider buns
sliced cheese

Place the chuck roast into a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.  Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper.  Place the garlic cloves on top of the roast.  Add the red onion, then pour over the Italian dressing and beer.  Place the bay leaves on top.  Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours.  Don’t open the lid during cooking time.

Discard the bay leaves and shred the meat with 2 forks, smash the garlic with the back of the fork and stir the garlic into the shredded meat.  Discard any fat, drain off the grease.  Serve the shredded meat on the slider buns with cheese.  Melt the cheese under the broiler in the oven in desired.

Vem aí um furacão chamado Matthew.  Graças ao Matthew temos dois dias de folga.  Oba!!  Quando tem furacão o povo da Flórida aproveita para cozinhar.  Os “sliders” são perfeitos porque enquanto  trazemos todos os moveis e as plantas do patio para dentro de casa a carne fica cozinhando lentamente na panela elétrica.


1.5 kilos de carne enteira (acém)
1/2 colher de chá de sal
1/4 colher de chá de pimenta do reino
4 dentes de alho
1 cebola vermelha fatiada
1 copo de molho de salada italiano
1 copo de cerveja
2 folhas de louro
paozinho de sanduiche
fatias de quiejo
Coloque a carne enteira num “crockpot”.  Tempere com o sal e a pimenta.  Ponha os dentes de alho em cima da carne.  Adicione a cebola vermelha, o molho italiano e a cerveja.  Coloque as folhas de louro por cima. Cubra e cozinhe no fogo alto durante 6 horas ou no fogo baixo por 8 a 10 horas.  Não destampe a panela enquanto a carne a cozinha. Jogue as folhas de louro fora e desfie a carne.  Amasse o alho com um garfo e misture com a carne.  Retire e coe a gordura da carne.  Sirva a carne desfiada nos pãezinhos com fatias de queijo.

Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde

Usually, after a week or two abroad, I’m ready to return home.  But coming back from this recent vacation has been difficult.  I’m still trying to figure out why.

We ordered Chinese take-out on the first day home.  Indigestion and stomach upset…in ALL CAPS.  Such a contrast to the fabulous foods we had in Portugal.

Could it be jet lag?  Someone suggested sleeping pills.  I’ll pass, mainly because I’m afraid of trying them and then becoming an addict.

I want to be taken back to Portugal.  Caldo Verde is a traditional Portuguese soup made with potatoes, olive oil, and collard greens.  Better than any pill.

I close my eyes and I’m there.  Hidden between the rows of vines, lying on the ground…the only sound is that of the fallen leaves and compost, nestled beneath my body…Everything is okay now.


Geralmente, depois de passar algumas semanas fora do país fico ansiosa e tenho vontade de voltar para a casa.  Desta vez foi diferente.  Alguma coisa em mim mudou.  De repente tem a ver com o trabalho.  A situação ficou dificil depois que entrou um novo chefe.  (Nao se preocupe, ninguem do trabalho sabe da existência deste blog.  E mesmo se soubessem, estou apenas relatando os fatos.)

A razão pela melancolia pode ser outra.  De repente o fuso horário?  Estou sem dormir.  Me recomendaram pastillas para dormir, mas tenho medo de provar e ficar viciada.

Estou com saudades.  Quero ser transportada de volta para o Portugal.  A melhor maneira é através da comida.  O Caldo Verde é uma sopa Portuguesa.  Melhor do que qualquer remedio.  Fecho os olhos e estou lá.  Deitada no chão de terra do vinhedo, escondida entre as fileiras das vinhas onde o único barulho que se ouve é o das folhas secas e do capim se ajeitando debaixo do meu corpo.  Agora esta tudo bem.



Serendipity: Finding something good without looking for it. ~ Encontramos as coisas boas da vida sem ter que procurar.

Porto - On the Douro River. O Cais da Ribeira

Porto – On the Douro River. O Cais da Ribeira

We are well into our trip to Portugal and so far we have only good things to say.  When we landed in Porto it felt like home.  It was kind of strange for all of us, we later discussed.  My mom loved the fact that we could walk anywhere and that the nearest cold beer was down the stairs from our apartment.  The water, the cool breeze on the Douro River, the sunshine, the wine.  We felt completely relaxed.  Time for sleep was scarce but that didn’t seem to affect our moods.

I couldn’t wait to be on this trip because I intended to entice you with photos of succulent cuisine and accompanying recipes.  But actually, this first post isn’t at all about food.

We spent our last day in Porto at the Ribeira (the banks of the Douro River),   which happens to be one of my favorite places on the planet.  We watched the people walking past, we drank beer and we chatted with the waiters.  By the time we left (and thanks to my mom), we were friends with the entire place.

Next stop was a restaurant, also on the river’s bank.  Before the Portuguese waiter could get our drink orders, my mom complimented his good looks and asked for a photo.  When we joked with her about the waiter and the kiss on the cheek that he gave her…mom told us we were just jealous because no one else in our group had stolen a kiss from a gorgeous Portuguese man.  Okay, better not argue with mom.

We saw some young boys, probably ages 8 or 9, jump off the pier and into the water.  The sun shone on the river and it glistened.  A man played with his dog, a Dalmatian.  A musician with his guitar sat in front of the restaurant and plucked a tune.  After dinner we left a little sad, knowing that it would be our last day in Porto.  I was in a slight daze, half conscious of my surroundings but half-mesmerized by the magic of the sunset.  The sunset is faithful; beautiful every time.  I had my back to the water and heard the voices of children play-fighting.  Something brushed against my back.  When I turned to look, it was the same young boys from the dock, one very blond, the other had light brown hair.  They wore pastel-colored swimming shorts.  One of the boys pulled the other in my direction while the boy twisted and turned trying to free himself.  But before he could get away, his friend pointed to him, then to me and made a heart shape with his two hands.  I giggled and gave him my heart back.  My little love and his friend ran off, laughing and playing.  And just like that…a boy on the Douro River stole my heart.  Life’s most beautiful moments happen unexpectedly.  Spontaneous yet familiar, embracing while freeing.  That is Porto.

Estamos aproveitando muito desta viagem ao Portugal.  Todos os passeios tem sido lindos e os Portugueses sempre acolhedores.  Quando o avião aterissou sentimos que estávamos em casa.  A minha mãe achou otimo a fartura de cerveja bem na praça onde ficava nosso hotel.  Era só descer a escada do apartamento.  A brisa do Rio Douro, o sol, o vinho…Estávamos completamente relaxadas.  Tivemos muito pouco tempo para dormir mas isto não afetou o nosso humor.

Eu esperei tanto esta viagem porque queria provocar você com fotos das comidas e as receitas portuguesas.  Ao invés disso resolvi falar sobre a beleza do Porto.  Quando menos esperamos, aparecem as coisas boas da vida.  Visitei o Porto pela primeira vez porque fui atrás de um amor.  Ele nao me quiz.  Doeu muito.  Mas o resultado positivo desta paixão foi que aprendi mais sobre um pais maravilhoso e agora tenho o prazer de compartilhar com a família e os amigos.  Conhecemos pessoas muito especiais e nos divertimos muito.

As crianças da foto estavam descansando depois de terem passado o dia brincando de pular do cais.  A recordação que marcou muito durante a viagem ao Portugal foi da felicidade de um amor espontâneo e inesperado.  O Porto me ensinou que a vida as vezes tira uma pessoa de nosso caminho sem explicação.  E que talvez um dia virá outra para alegrar o coração e preencher o vazio.


Rocky Road Ice Cream and Sardines

Häagen Daz Ice Cream from Publix. Italia Language Book, Sentieri.

Häagen Daz Ice Cream from Publix. Italian Language Book, Sentieri.

The work-week was long and intense.  My physical body was about to give out on Friday afternoon.  What kept it going was the mental image of a pint of Häagen Daz Rocky Road and a big spoon.  On my way out I wished my colleagues a good weekend.  When they asked about my plans…I didn’t give the answer a second thought.

“Eat a pint of Rocky Road ice cream and watch re-runs of NCIS, CSI or Law and Order…in that order.”

The good apple of the three 40-somethings said I should resist the urge, have some fruit and go for a run.  The one with more sense (divorced and lives life to the fullest) said I should save some Rocky Road for her.  She’s my donut-cravings confidant, the one who sends a happy face reply when I text a photo of the box of donuts in my car…on the way to the office.

The craving became stronger on Saturday.  I knew I needed that ice cream.  At the end of the day, after I had run errands and made frivolous purchases, I drove to the Winn-Dixie near my home.  I was in the pets aisle first and picked up those expensive little cans of cat food, some treats and two boxes of cat litter.  Then I stood in the frozen foods section.  I opened each of the tall glass doors and read the names of the flavors one by one.  There were two ladies (40-somethings, too) dressed in sweat pants and hoodies in the same aisle.  They smiled empathetically at me, as if saying, “I know how you feel”.  They discussed their options and chose two different flavors: double chocolate as well as mint chocolate.  I felt a connection to them.  It was Saturday night, the three of us had a worn look.  We wanted to be on our couches, wrapped in blankets and watching TV.  I could be wrong about them and their plans for the evening, but I’m pretty good at understanding people.

Satisfied with their choices the ladies left the ice cream aisle.  I stayed behind for a bit, still searching.  No Rocky Road.  I got in the check-out line behind the two ladies.   Some big, strong, good looking guy got in the same line behind me.  He had a twelve-pack of beer.  I laughed at myself (internally) and smiled at him; I probably looked so pathetic with…a shopping cart full of cat food, cat treats, cat litter…lettuce and kale (for the rabbit).  Oh well.

One of the ice cream ladies smiled and asked if I found anything.

I smiled and pouted at the same time “No, there isn’t any Rocky Road.”

“Oh but they have it!  It was one freezer over.  You must have missed it.”

“Yeah, I saw that…but I want Häagen Daz brand.  I’m going to Publix.”

She laughed.  I got a thumbs up and this response: “Now that’s commitment.  I like that.”

I found the Häagen Daz Rocky Road at Publix.  I also picked up a pint of Butter Pecan. It must have been one of those “hot-guy-at-the-supermarket nights”.  This time, not one, but two big, strong and handsome eastern Europeans were in the check-out lane next to mine.  My eyes locked with the eyes of the taller one.  Thankfully, I didn’t have a cart-full of cat food.  Although it might actually be alright this time…Europeans tend to be okay with cats.  The French loves cats, for example.

I don’t want to go way off topic…but…do you remember that scene in Batman Returns, where Michelle Pfeiffer comes home looking like hell after being electrocuted when she bites an electrical wire and transfers the current to another man?  She stumbles into her apartment, turns on her answering machine and the only messages are from her mom. She recklessly opens her fridge…pours some milk for her kitties…and drinks the rest straight from the carton.  Cat woman then proceeds to sew her own black vinyl costume.

Well, the scene at my house wasn’t that dramatic, mostly because I already have a cat woman costume and I don’t drink milk.  You can view my scene in the photo above.  I got home, fed the cats, grabbed my Italian Language book, crawled onto the couch, turned on the TV and had half the pint of ice cream.  Happiness comes in small pints.

PS- I forgot to mention the Sardines.  I had them for dinner…with the Rocky Road ice cream.  An unlikely, but quite uplifting combination.


Brazilian Cherries ~ Pitanga

Pitanga verde Pitanga madura

In Portuguese they are called Pitanga.  In English they are referred to as Brazilian Cherries or Suriname Cherries.  The bushes that produce these anti-oxidant loaded cherries are very resistant to disease.  They are often used as hedges and can grow quite tall.  When we were in high school, the public library as well as public tennis courts used these bushes as hedges.  During the hot summer months (July and August) we could play tennis and go to the library…and then pick Suriname Cherries.  It seems like people in the U.S. don’t eat these cherries, quite possibly because they don’t know what they are.

I planted a few seeds in different pots…then transferred the young plants to the ground…and they’ve become lovely large bushes.  The unripe cherries are green.  As the fruit ripens the color transitions from orange to red.  The deeper the red, the more sweet the fruit.  I usually like tangy fruits, but in this instance I prefer the very ripe, deep red and extremely sweet fruit.


Essa frutinha é muito gostosa. Nos Estados Unidos usam a planta para fazer cerca.  Aqui em casa plantei varias mudas que agora estão grandes.  A fruta madura é vermelha.  Quanto mais vermelha, mais doce.

As Olimpíadas do Rio estão uma beleza.  O tênis masculino e o feminino foram emocionantes.  No futebol o Brasil tem o Tite.  Parece que o Tite acertou na escalação porque o Brasil ainda esta nas Olimpíadas.  O Honduras não vai ser problema.  Mas a Alemanha…

A Little Bit of Luck… Um Pouquinho de Sorte

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa

We chose the right dish for dinner this evening.  And we also chose the right destination for our vacation this September.  After tonight’s win, the country of Portugal will be smiling from ear to ear!  Good for them. They’ve experienced much economic hardship in recent years.  Finally, something to cheer about!

Escolhemos o prato certo para o jantar desta noite. E por coincidencia tambem acertamos o destino para as ferias de setembro.  Os Portugueses tem sofrido muito nos ultimos anos por causa de problemas economicos no pais. Finalmente… um motivo para festejar!
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Dragons and Cherries ~ Dragões e Cerejas

Recipe by Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Photo by Priscillakittycat

Recipe by Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Photo by Priscillakittycat

I’m seeing dragons today.  No, it’s not the effect of drugs.  The thing is, there’s a Euro Cup soccer match on TV and the Welsh team’s emblem is a red dragon.  The Portuguese team also has a dragon somewhere in the mix.  If you know a little bit about Portuguese soccer, you might know that the FC Porto team are referred to as the Super Dragons. Their dragon is blue.

I really like dragons because I associate them with medieval times.  I wish I lived during the medieval ages, in a big huge castle, with a moat around it.  If I were a queen, my castle would surely be the site of many royal bashes.  We’d dine on long wooden tables overflowing with good food and drink.  We’d have musicians perform in the castle every day.  You should know that the bashes wouldn’t be just for royalty.  The king and I would probably snub royalty and throw parties for the peasants and commoners.  Our children would run wild around the castle and have loads of fun with the royal pets.  And if I had my way, the pets would outnumber the children.  Yes, the king and his queen would love all creatures big and small…including dragons.

Whew…I promise I haven’t had anything to drink.  Nothing wrong with drifting off into a fantasy world every now and then.

Okay, where were we?  Oh yes, the soccer match.  Well nothing too exciting has happened thus far.  While we wait for some action, how about a recipe?  I bet people ate cherries back then.  Red is a nice royal color.  For our royal banquet, let’s prepare a Classic Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce.

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 ¼ cups plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 pkgs (8 oz each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen sweet cherries
1 tbsp lemon juice

Heat oven 325F.  Combine graham crumbs, 3 tbsp sugar and butter; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan.  Beat cream cheese, 1 cup of the remaining sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended.  Pour over crust.

Bake for 55 minutes or until center is almost set.  Run knife around rim of the pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim.  Refrigerate cheesecake for at least 4 hours.

Meanwhile, cook cherries, lemon juice and remaining sugar in a saucepan on medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until cherries are tender and sauce is thickened.  Cool completely.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon cherry topping over cheescake before serving.  Reduce oven temperature to 300F if using a dark nonstick springform pan.


Hoje estou enxergando dragões.  Hahaha…Prometo que isso não é o efeito de drogas.  Acontece que estou assistindo um jogo da Euro Copa e o emblema do time de Gales é um dragão.  Os Portugas também usam dragão em emblema de time de futebol.  Aqueles que são fãs dos Super Dragões (FC Porto) idolatram um dragão azul.

Gosto de dragões porque me lembram os tempos medievais.  Eu queria ter vivido naquela época.  Queria ter morado num castelo grande.  Se eu fosse rainha, o castelo seria um ponto de atração.  Os banquetes seriam extravagantes, com fartura de comida e bebida.  Músicos viriam de terras longes para entreter os convidados.  Nao pense que as festas seriam para os de sangue azul.  Nada disso.  Pelo contrário, eu e o meu rei faríamos as festas para os plebeus.

Os nossos filhos correriam pelo castelo se divertindo com os animais de estimação.  E se fosse por mim, a nossa cria de animais seria maior que a prole.  A rainha e seu rei amariam todos os seres, pequenos e grandes, incluindo os dragões.

Nossa, fui longe!  De que estavamos falando mesmo?

Ah, sim—o jogo de futebol.  Começou meio sem graça.  Enquanto aguardamos o aquecimento dos jogadores, vamos cozinhar?  Acho que nos tempos medievais as pessoas comiam cerejas, neh?  O vermelho é a cor de realeza.  Para este banquete vamos preparar um Cheesecake Classico com Molho de Cerejas.

1 ½ copos de esfarelo de bolachas tipo graham cracker
1 ¼ copos e mais 3 colheres de açúcar
1/3 copo de manteiga ou margarina, derretida
4 pacotes de Cream Cheese, em temperatura ambiente
1 colher de chá de baunilha
4 ovos
1 pacote de cerejas congeladas
1 colher de sopa de suco de limão italiano

Aqueça o forno (325F).  Junte as bolachas, 3 colheres de açúcar e a manteiga; forre o fundo de uma fôrma springform com as bolachas e pressione com os dedos para formar uma base.  Bata o cream cheese, 1 copo do açúcar e a baunilha até incorporar.  Adicione os ovos, um de cada vez, e bata com uma batedeira em velocidade lenta.  Despeje sobre a base de bolachas.

Asse por 55 minutos.  Passe uma faca pela beirada da fôrma springform para desgrudar o cheesecake.  Deixe esfriar antes de retirar o aro.  Leve para gelar por 4 horas.

Enquanto o cheesecake esfria, cozinhe as cerejas, o suco de limão e o resto do açúcar numa panela durante uns 10 minutos ou até o molho engrossar.  Deixe esfriar e leve para a geladeira.  Despeje o molho sobre o cheesecake e sirva.

My Aunt’s Stuffed Fish ~ Peixe Recheado da Tia Neide

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by my Aunt Neide

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by my Aunt Neide

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My Aunt Neide is an expert when it comes to fish.  She and my mom grew up in a town whose river abounded with fish back in their day.  Since then, the Sao Francisco river has been the victim of human-inflicted destruction.  The river’s waters were diverted for irrigation, damns have been built at various points and deforestation has ripped away the protection from erosion offered by trees.  There’s a very good soap opera currently on Brazilian TV.  The name is “Velho Chico”.  “Chico” is short for Francisco.  “Velho” means old.  Old Chico is a story about generations of families living along the Sao Francisco river and how the river and life on it has changed over time. If you want to see the beauty of life along the river and the unfolding of a love story, subscribe to Globo TV or wait and watch it when it comes on Spanish TV.

My aunt gets credit for this recipe.  My brothers get credit for catching the fish.  It’s a Mutton Snapper and was caught off the coast of Florida.  My mom says my brothers took after their great-grandmother, Oliva, because they love to fish.  She fished on the Sao Francisco river, never missing a day.  I personally like the stuffing the most.  But why don’t you try for yourself and decide?

Choose a whole fish that has been de-scaled, thoroughly cleaned, rinsed and patted dry.  Rub the inside and oustide of the fish with a salt rub made with salt, saffron, garlic and saffron.  Place the fish on a cutting board or long tray.  Squeeze lime on the fish and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  Stuff the fish with the stuffing shown below.  Sew the fish closed or use broken skewer sticks to contain the stuffing.

Place the fish on na oven-proof baking pan.  Pour olive oil over both sides of the fish and dredge in breadcrumbs.  Place in the oven and bake at 375F.  While the fish bakes, baste it occasionally with it’s own liquid.  After baking you can carefully transfer the fish to a nice serving platter and adorn with cooked shrimp, lettuce leaves, and black olives.

Stuffing:  Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan.  Add chopped onions and cook until softened.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink.  Add chopped tomatoes, parsley or cilantro, fresh chili pepper, salt and green olives.  Lower the heat and add one heaping tablespoon butter and add the bread crumbs.  You can add a little white wine or water to moisten the stuffing.  You can also add black olives and chopped hard boiled eggs to the stuff for added taste.

Escolha um peixe inteiro.  Depois de escamado, limpo e bem lavado, esfregue bem o peixe com uma miscelânea de temperos socados com sal; ponha numa travessa, regue-o com caldo de limão e deixe repousar por algum tempo: nunca menos de meia hora.  Encha então a barriga do peixe com o recheio abaixo.  Costure ou feche com palitos de espeto.

Arrume o peixe num tabuleiro de forno, regue com azeite e passe farinha de pão nos dois lados.  Ponha no forno pré-aquecido para assar.  Enquanto assa deve, de vez em quando, rega-lo com um pouco do próprio molho, que se vai retirando da assadeira.

Depois de assado, coloque o peixe com cuidado numa travessa bonita e guarneça com camarões cozidos, pepinos em conserva, folhas de alface, ramos de agrião e azeitonas pretas.

Faça o recheio com um punhado de camarões, que se refogam com azeite, cebola, alho, tomate, salsa ou coentro, sal, pimenta, se gostar azeitonas verdes; Depois de feito o refogado de camarões tire a caçarola do fogo, junte uma colher de manteiga de lata e misture farinha de mandioca.  Se quiser use um pouco de vinho ou agua para umedecer a farinha, azeitonas pretas e ovos cozidos adicionados ao recheio, tornam-no mais rico e saboroso.




Uncomplicated Shrimp Pasta ~ Macarrão Descomplicado com Camarão

Recipe isn't necessary. Photo by Priscillakittycat

Recipe isn’t necessary. Photo by Priscillakittycat

Ingredients:  Peeled and deveined shrimp, olive oil, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, salt and cooked pasta.

Directions:  Make it happen!

Ingredientes:  Camarão descascado e limpo, salsinha, alho picado, azeite de oliva, sal e macarrão cozido.

Instruções:  Faça acontecer!



Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe adapted over the years.

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe adapted over the years.

This post is written in solidarity with the Mexicans.  We Brazilians know how it feels to have another team score 7 on you.  Sorry you had to go through that.  It’s not the end of the world.  In a year or two you will feel better.  In the meantime, keep drinking tequila.  According to a good Brazilian friend, Tequila is the best alcoholic beverage because it has the least amount of calories/carbs.  It will destroy your liver but that’s another story.

5 or 6 ripe Haas avocados
2 chopped tomatoes
1 chopped red onion
1 lime
chopped cilantro
coarse salt
fresh red chili pepper

Place the chili peppers in a mortar with the salt and some a few teaspoons of the chopped tomatoes.  Mash until combines.  Add a tiny bit of water.

Peel and cut the avocados into chunks.  Place in a bowl and squeeze lime over the avocados to keep them from browning.  Mash the avocados slightly with a fork, leaving some random chunky pieces.  Add the onions, chopped cilantro and chopped tomatoes.  Stir until combined.  Taste and re-season with more salt and chili pepper pieces.

Dedico o texto de hoje aos Mexicanos.  Coitados-comeram sete gols.  Nós sabemos como é comer sete gols.  O mundo não acabou.  Logo, logo eles recuperam.  Enquanto isso podem continuar bebendo tequila.  Uma amiga Brasileira me ensinou que a tequila é a melhor bebida alcoólica porque contém menos calorias que qualquer outra.  Arrasa o fígado, mas você fica magra.

5 ou 6 abacates maduros
2 tomates picados
1 cebola vermelha picada
1 limão
coentro picado
sal grosso
pimenta malagueta (fresquinha tirada do pé)

Coloque a pimenta num pilão e amasse com o sal e duas colheres do tomate picado.  Adicione um pouquinho de agua (uma colher de sopa).

Descasque e corte o abacate.  Coloque numa tigela e esprema o limão por cima para evitar que o abacate mude a cor.  Amasse o abacate com um garfo.  (Deixe alguns pedaços maiores).  Acrescente a cebola picada, o coentro e os tomates picados.  Prove e tempere com mais sal e/ou pimenta malagueta.


June 12 is Valentine’s Day in Brazil ~ This is…A True Love Story

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My dad is a man of few words.  When he speaks, though, it is either something very profound or something so funny it will make you fall off your chair in laughter.  He said something to me many years ago.  He said that when someone really loves you, they will do something about it.  I never recognized the truth behind those words until…

It was June of 1988, summertime in the US, winter in Brazil.  I was 15.  We packed our bags like we had done so many times before; 14 suitcases, army bags and large boxes, between the seven of us.  (Seven because my brother’s nine year old friend, Bradley, joined us)  Inside the boxes:  silk flowers, party favors, cake decorating supplies, and engraved items such as napkins, champagne glasses, and matches, -everything needed for a celebration of high caliber.

I, the typical teenager, wasn’t interested in a fancy party.  But I had to board the plane and go with them.  After all, the party would be for me.

At the duty free shop in Brazil my mom purchased boxes and more boxes of whiskey.  We spent a few days in Belo Horizonte, a city whose name means beautiful horizon.  There we met with the seamstress so I could try on the dresses.  The dresses, fit for a princess, weren’t ready but they would be shipped to my grandmother’s house in Januaria.

Back then, the only safe way to get to my grandmother’s town (my mom’s hometown) was via a very long bus ride.  The bus departed the train station in Belo Horizonte at nine o’clock in the evening.  The road was covered with large potholes that had formed after the rainy season.  We bounced and jiggled around the bus the entire way.  It was cold outside.  I leaned my head back but I couldn’t sleep.  Eight and a half hours into the trip (around 5:20 a.m.) the bus stopped and the driver instructed everyone to exit.

We were at the bank of the Sao Francisco River.  The river’s bank was lined with small clay huts that had straw roofs.  The soil was a thick, burnt-orange color.  Our shoes and the hems of our pants absorbed the powdery soil as we walked.  During the winter season, the Northeastern region of Brazil is hot and arid during the day and cool in the evening.  It was still dark outside; the sun would creep out soon.  Single flickering bulbs dangled from the electrical lines that were strung from hut to hut.  A handful of villagers carried baskets or metal trays containing items such as corn on the cob, fried fish, and bottled drinks.  The villagers weaved between the waiting passengers and offered their goods.

Nothing was wrong with the bus, by the way.  We just had to wait for the barge to arrive from the other side of the river.  When the barge arrived, the larger cargo, including buses and trucks boarded first.  The river was calm, it’s water thick and brown.  If it were daytime you’d see the tones of red.  The thought of boarding a flat piece of metal loaded with heavy vehicles and subsequently being tugged across the river by a small boat seemed risky.  I negotiated with God and asked him get us across the river safely.  Twenty minutes later (felt like longer) the bus drove off the barge, we re-boarded and were back on the road to Januaria.

The town didn’t change much from year to year.  Dilapidated homes lined the cobblestone streets.  My grandmother lived in the city square where the homes maintained the colonial style of the late 1800s.  The square had a bank, a church, a bakery, two drug stores and a hardware store.

The day we arrived my mom informed me I would dance the waltz with someone named Manoel.  According to mom he was the most handsome man in town.  She wanted to be sure the photos would turn out nice, hence the arrangement.  An argument ensued.  There was absolutely no way I would agree to dance the waltz with a complete stranger who was 23 years old.  Creepy!  I proposed that it was only necessary for me to dance with my dad.  The second waltz was reserved for boyfriends and if I didn’t have a boyfriend, we could logically omit that part of the ceremony.

My mom and I argued back and forth on the matter until I finally agreed to her conditions:  If I didn’t have a “boyfriend” by the day of the party I would dance with Manoel. (In the meantime I told myself I would devise a plan to meet and inform this allegedly good-looking man that it wouldn’t be necessary for him to dance with me.)

The next day our family went to the “beach”.  The road that led to the beach was dusty with that thick burnt orange powder.  At the beach we sat under the shade of a tiki hut.  Something was cooking in the hut’s kitchen and it smelled really good.  My parents went from table to table and greeted people. Everyone was really friendly.  We got hugs and kisses from people I had never met before.  My parents found an empty table.  I sat facing the hut’s kitchen because even back then I was curious about food.  My parents had their backs to both the kitchen and to the entrance of the hut.

I looked around and explored our surroundings and quickly noted the contrast in the local’s attire versus mine.   I wore a lime green American-style bathing suit.  The bottom of my bathing suit looked like a diaper compared to the teeny-tiny bikinis worn by all the other girls on the beach.  Good thing I had on a pair of white shorts to cover my diaper butt.  I looked down at my clothes and felt a bit embarrassed.

I heard some laughs and commotion at the back of the hut.  When I looked up, there he was.  He was tall and had dirty blond hair (like Jon Bon Jovi’s).  His eyes were green, set perfectly between a nose that turned slightly upward when he smiled.  He had full lips and perfectly aligned white teeth.  I don’t think I had ever considered a being to be perfect until my eyes scanned downward toward his legs.  Those legs, thick and strong all the way down, completed the package.

My analysis lasted the few seconds it took him to walk to our table and gently pat my mom on the back.  Mom turned and enthusiastically hugged him.  “Manoel!”  Meanwhile, my mind and heart raced at 100 mph.  This was Manoel and he was not the best looking man in town.  He was the best looking man I had ever laid eyes on.  My mom introduced us and told him I was her daughter and would be the one for the waltz.  He flashed a smile and said he would be delighted to dance with me.  Something told me Manoel had been in many other waltz pictures and didn’t seem to mind the attention.  He moved to greet people at other tables.  We were at the elder’s tent.  He disappeared behind me…very likely headed for the young and cool people’s tent.  My pulse and blood pressure returned to normal after a half hour.  Okay, maybe it took a couple of hours.

The party wouldn’t be for another several weeks.  The doorbell rang constantly at my grandmother’s house.  People came to ask for invitations and also brought gifts.  The party planners came over every couple of days to discuss the details.  I stayed out of it.  It seemed to me that this party would be the wedding my mom never had.  She married my dad in a small ceremony.  Dad wasn’t there.  He was in the US and sent a power of attorney for his brother to take his place so that mom could obtain a Visa to come to the US.

I went out almost every night with my cousin who was one year my senior.  She taught me how to fend off unwanted guys.  Brazilians are quite forward when compared to American guys.  I wasn’t used to walking in the street and having a person walk past and say he wished he were the strawberry ice cream I was savouring.

I hadn’t seen Manoel since that day at the beach.  My cousin and I leaned against the wall that ran along the river.  About 20 feet below was the river.  During the rainy season the river would reach the top of the wall and sometimes flow over into the city.  I remember exactly what I wore that night.  It was a gray knit skirt, about an inch above my knee.  My blouse had half sleeves and matched the skirt.  The back of the blouse said:  “Naughty Boys”.  It was a popular brand of clothes in the US at the time.  (For Brazil’s fashion standards, I was still tacky)

Two guys came over to talk to us.  The guys were Paulistas (from Sao Paulo), in town for work.  Their names were Luis Enrique and Olavo. They were your typical city boys, nicely dressed and clean-cut, with Italian last names.  The conversation progressed to our plans for the days ahead.  My cousin mentioned my 15th birthday party and also told them that I would be forced to dance with a guy who I wasn’t interested in.  The Paulista who seemed to take a liking to me, immediately offered to be my partner for the dance.  I smiled and thanked him but didn’t exactly accept.

Cars drove slowly down the street.  Some played loud music.  The boys made passes at the girls.  Across the street there were a number of bars.  The bar directly in front of us was sparsely occupied.  I noticed someone familiar at a table with two girls.  He wore a beige and brown marbled sweater, jeans and a pair of all-stars.  I wondered who the girls were and whether either of them was his girlfriend or maybe a friend with benefits.  I was actually jealous.

Meanwhile, the two Paulistas carried on.  They asked me questions and I answered, mostly using monosyllable replies.  They didn’t notice where my attention was.  You have to keep in mind that I was a very shy girl back then.  I didn’t know what a comfort zone was but you can be sure I was outside of it.  What happened next blows my mind.  My actions would shape my life forever.

I casually informed the Paulistas and my cousin that I would be right back.  I strutted across the street on a mission…poofy hair and high-heel silver pumps (so tacky)…and said hello to Manoel.  I told Manoel that I would like to ask him a question.  He smiled and waited.  By then the girls he was with had eased out of the way.  In a soft and shy-but-confident voice I asked him if he would dance the waltz with me at my 15th birthday party.  He hugged me and said “Of course I will”.

From that moment forward he never let go of me.  Across the way the Paulistas deduced they would not be guests at my party.  My cousin was utterly confused.  Manoel and I were inseparable for the next several weeks.  He’d pick me up each morning and we’d head to the beach.  After the beach he’d drop me off at my grandmother’s house so I could nap.  He’d return later and wake me from my nap—that was nice.  We were together until around midnight, sometimes longer.  I was in love.

On the day of the party Manoel and I, along with my parents and brothers, stood at the reception area of the social club and greeted 600 guests.  (Three kisses on the cheek from each.  My facial muscles were sore.)  I had made some friends since our arrival in Januaria.  But of the 600 guests I could say I only knew 50.  We danced the waltz together just as my mom had planned.  Wink, wink!  Fireworks rang out.  He stood at my side and we cut the four-tier cake. The celebration would come to be known as the Party of the Century.

It is true.  All good things come to an end.  Our time expired just a few days after the party.  Our family had to board the same bus back to Belo Horizonte to then board the flight to Miami.  Manoel and I cried and hugged and cried some more.  I knew he would miss me and I would miss him just as much.

The years passed.  Each time I visited Brazil we would meet. The emotions were the same.  He had a few serious relationships and lived with a woman when he was away at law school.  Eventually he returned home to practice law with his father and became engaged to a local girl whose family owned half the town.  They had supermarkets and gas stations.  I knew he didn’t love her.  He was making the wrong move for the wrong reasons. Money and power are never good reasons to marry.

My family was invited to the wedding. On the eve of his wedding I was at a Karaoke Bar when a young man approached our table and asked if someone could tell him where to find Priscilla.  My aunt pointed at me.  The young man said that someone at the door was waiting to speak with me.

His truck was parked out front.  In small towns, everyone knows everyone…and everyone finds out about everything.  I didn’t care.  I got in the truck.  We talked…he told me he wanted to marry me.  I scolded him and questioned his sincerity.  He said he loved me and that I was the one he wanted to marry.  I didn’t believe him.  Why would he wait all this time to tell me?  On the night before his wedding?  It probably wasn’t true.  So I called his bluff and said that if he wanted to marry me he could.

He stopped the car at my grandmother’s doorstep—another big mistake in a small town where everyone talks.  We talked some more.  Neither of us seemed to care what other people thought that night.  We stared into each other’s teary eyes and didn’t say a word for a few minutes.  Before I closed the door he said he loved me.  I ran up the stairs, buried my head in a pillow and cried.

The next day wasn’t easy.  Remember that the church was in front of my grandmother’s house.  I opened a bottle of wine and sat at the balcony.  The guests began to arrive.  My family and I walked over and sat in one of the back pews.  My hands shook and heart pounded.  Manoel saw my brothers and pretended to choke himself, a Brazilian gesture that refers to the act of getting married.

The wedding happened.  They bride and groom exchanged vows.  At the reception they greeted guests.  I walked past.  His new bride held on to him for dear life.  While still holding her hand he leaned toward me and said something in my ear.  The music was loud so I couldn’t hear him.  I asked him to repeat.   He repeated but I still couldn’t hear.  On the third attempt he said, “Never mind”.

Months and years passed.  I heard rumors about his failing marriage all the time.  He left the house several times.  I saw him every now and then.  He always had a hug for me, a very special hug.  The kind that neither of us wanted to let go of.  After seven years and a number of reconciliation attempts the marriage ended.  (Apparently seven is the magic number for divorces).

Separation after being with a person for a long time is not easy, even if things are bad and the separation is for the better.  But life was really looking good for Manoel after the divorce.  He moved into the space above his law firm. I was happy for him.

My mom was in Januaria in August of that year.  She emailed me pictures of Manoel and said he wanted to see me.  He asked my mom if it would be okay for him to visit me in Miami.  He told my mom he wanted to marry me.  She always liked Manoel so “yes” was her answer.  I told her to let him know that he shouldn’t worry because we would see each other soon.  I had plans to visit in December.  He sent a message back saying that December was too far away.  He said he would come get me sooner.  My mom played along with him and said, “Okay, as you wish”.  After all those years he still referred to my mom as his “sogra” or mother-in-law.

Mom returned to Miami.  We were both excited about my seeing Manoel again.  He was divorced now.  The path was clear.  After also having recently ended a long-term hopeless relationship I was ready for him.  We were ready for each other.  I remember sleeping so peacefully in the weeks that followed.

One morning in late August, not long after her return from Brazil, Mom entered my room with a startled look on her face.  Something was wrong.  “What, mom?”

She told me she had just received a call from my uncle.  Manoel had been in a car accident.  My immediate reaction was, “Okay, but he’s going to be okay, right?  He’s in the hospital, right?”

“No”, she said.  “He died in the accident.”

My world fell apart on that day.  We had waited so long.  How could our plans end this way?  The sadness I felt was deep. His physical life ended on that day.  My spirit died.  My heart was broken.  My life would never be the same.  I promised myself many things.  I would never take time for granted.  I promised I would always do what I wanted to do and say what needed to be said, without holding back. I promised to say yes more, to believe in people more…to love more.

One year later to the day of his death I visited Januaria. Strangely, I walked around town and still expected to see him drive past in his truck and wave.  It was hard to accept his death.  What occurred next was even harder to accept.

Manoel’s mom came to visit.  She brought an envelope with her.  She began to cry as she told this story:

“On the day of his wedding, Manoel drove 100 km to another town and called us to say he would not be there for the wedding.  He told us he did not want to marry her.  He told us he didn’t love her.  He said he loved you and wanted to marry you.”

Manoel’s mom described the events that had transpired on the day of his wedding. She said, “I told Manoel that all the catering had been arranged, the guests had been invited…and he couldn’t just walk away.  I told him he needed to come back.  I told him he needed to respect his family, her family, and the guests.  He refused. We had no choice.  So we sent his brother and sister to pick him up.  We coerced him into marrying his fiancé against his wishes.”

Manoel’s mom was there to apologize to me.  She felt a tremendous amount of guilt for forcing him to marry someone he didn’t love. And now, she felt she would have to carry the guilt of his death with her.  Had he not married her, she reasoned, he might not have started drinking…and therefore the accident wouldn’t have happened.

She opened the envelope and showed me the contents.  One by one she laid them out on my lap.  They were all photos of me, different sizes, different shapes, and different ages.  She had found them in his drawers, hidden in various spots.  She found them while cleaning out his home following the accident.

“He loved you, Priscilla.  His wife knew he loved you.  She despised you because she knew the truth.  She knew he was with you the night before his wedding and she knew he left town on the day of their wedding.”

I was in complete shock.  He really meant it that night.  He really did want to marry me.  I should have believed him.  I should have offered to run away with him.  I would have done it.

Now I, too, was overcome with guilt.  I thought of what our lives would have been like had things happened differently.  I don’t know how our lives would have turned out…but I now know that my dad was right when he said, “when someone loves you they will do something about it”.  Manoel did something about it.  But his family stopped him.

His mom hugged me and we cried.  Before she left she said I should go on with my life and find someone good.  She said that’s what Manoel would have wanted.  He wanted me to be happy.  She said it was time to let him go.

I haven’t returned to Januaria since then.  I prefer to remember the good times we had, the sunsets and sunrises.  The sun set too soon for my Manoel.  I am still blessed with the gift of life and a sun that rises every day. It means I have the responsibility to live a meaningful life and try to make the world a better place.  His love shines in my heart every day.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Manoel.