“Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not.” Charles Kingsley
Brazilians love meat and barbecueing meat has been perfected till it has become a fine art. Churrasco is hard to pronounce properly for they trill the “rr” or aspirate the “rrs” so it sounds like an “h.” But no matter how you say it their barbecued meats are the best. When you visit Brazil you’ll want to experience a Churrascaria—one of their restaurants that specialize in barbecued meats. Generally this restaurant will have a salad buffet but that is not what it is about. It is meat and I’ve never found them barbecuing tomatoes of tofu sausages. The waiter will bring to our table a skewer with roast beef, pork, ribs, chicken wings and hearts, and other meats that I can’t even remember now.
The waiter comes by our table with one or more skewers of meat; he will be nattily dressed most likely in a white long-sleeved shirt and perhaps with a black apron. He carries the spit over a dish so there will be no dripping and if we don’t wave him off he places the tip of the skewer on our plates. We can choose the meat to be rare or well done and he will slice it off while you gently lower it to you plate with your fork. And when you are half finished that slice he will be there offering more, though not the same kind of meat. If you like tender tasty barbecued meats, this is for you–the Promised Land.
If you wish to stray from a Churrascaria to something more reasonably priced, then a “pay by the kilo” might be your choice. In this restaurant we pick up our plates inside the door and start down the buffet line choosing all of our favorite foods all the while remembering that at the end of the line a scale will tell us not just the weight but the price. I’ve always found the total on my plate quite reasonable, more so than a hamburger and fries at any of our fast food places.
Then there is the rodizio where the buffet comes to you. Just sit at the table and the food magically appears with the waiters coming by every few minutes. We can choose what we want and it is always delicious. By now in your reading you are getting to understand the Brazilian restaurants serve the best food anywhere. Even in the humblest of homes their food is tasty beginning with their staple of rice and beans. And at the end of a meal anywhere we’ll have a cafezinho and that will be good too–if you like strong sweet coffee.
I’ve strayed a little from the churrasco but I return to one that stands out in my memory better than any other. This was a private charrasco prepared just for us and children when our team visited a church-sponsored daycare. It was located next to a favela, a shanty town. The school was called Todo Mundo Feliz meaning “Everybody is Happy;” it certainly seemed true not only for the children but for the teachers and the director. They sang for us and you’d hardly believe the volume of sound that group of some fifty or more children provided.
The meat was skewered onto small pieces of bamboo and then prepared on an outdoor charcoal barbecue that may have been some four to five feet long. Not only was the meat delicious but the memory sticks with me of the children from this slum area that are being cared for and getting an education. The whole program is financed by one of our Sao Paulo churches—what a wonderful mission; it is a project that lends meaning to the lives of the children and is a source of joy for those who finance it and participate in the program. As I ponder what is happening there I am sure this is what Jesus referred to when he mentions, “…laying up treasures in heaven.” Who knows? There we may be served a churrasco as one of those treasures.
“Hope—that bubbling ingredient in life which is like carbonation in a drink, giving it zest, keeping it in motion, always pushing it up.” DuPrey
We had no idea all the many health benefits from the fruit of the papaya tree. We simply picked it from our own tree and enjoyed it. All that occurred when we moved to the little village of Neves in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo–that was after being in Brazil just over two years. I don’t recall ever tasting papaya till we picked the fruit from the tree we inherited on the property we bought. That property provided for us a house and church. Instantly we came to love this fruit; but with the size of the fruit and the continuing production on this twelve foot tree, we had to do more with it than just slice up the fruit for desert. So what did we do? We purchased our first blender to make papaya smoothies.
I’ve never seen papaya of the size or colour of the ones we inherited in our yard. Though the pear shaped fruit on our tree when ripe might hit perhaps sixteen inches, yet the info I have says it can grow to twenty inches. But most papaya in markets here seldom go beyond seven inches though the street markets in Brazil would have some larger than that. You see, shipping a ten pound or larger papaya could be a problem for the fruit has the consistency of butter…well maybe cold butter. The colour of the meat in our papayas was not the yellow or orange you’d find in a market here but deep reddish orange. And sweet! A papaya ripening on the tree has its own enticing exotic taste.
There in Neves we had an important guest, the General Secretary of the Mission Board from the HQ of the American church. He came way out there to see what was going on among the coffee ranches. Well, Doris wanted to make something special for the dinner meal that particular Sunday. But with our isolation nothing was available to make the pie she had in mind except—of course, the papaya. After our guest ate his piece of pie he asked, “Where did you ever get peaches here for that pie?” When Doris explained that it was papaya he could hardly believe it. For us, it was just plain papaya from our own private tree.
There are other options of course in how you might eat papaya other than in a pie or from a blender. So cut the papaya in half—of course if it is as big as the ones we used to have you’d better have a long knife. Then take a spoon and dish out the black seeds for both the seeds and the rind are not edible. Then you can eat the papaya with a spoon after cutting it into personal sized slices. If you don’t mind being a bit messy, eat it the way you might a watermelon. You’ll be smacking your lips I know—though some prefer adding a bit of lemon or orange juice.
You may know papaya not by its Brazilian name but by Papaw or Pawpaw. How well does it produce? Well, one tree kept our family supplied and the tree would normally have at least a half dozen forming high up and tight to the trunk. I don’t recall how I picked our fruit from this tall tree but it must have been from a ladder—no low picking fruit on this tree. There isn’t much use trying to grow a papaya tree here—it definitely is not winter hardy and even if you tried the seeds might not sprout. In fact I am told that the fruit needs the warm weather to ripen. A male tree is needed to provide the pollen to set the fruit but we never had one. Not a problem. The wind and the insects from around the village of Neves would do all that for us.
When I think of that papaya tree that bore fruit all the time we lived in Neves I recall that in a way fruit bearing was what Doris and I were trying to do as well. Our church hall situated just a stone’s throw away from that papaya tree is where a number of village children attended. They came to our Sunday School and youth programs that Doris directed; but with their poverty they had little hope of a better life. Given some help and encouragement those same children are now retiring having spent their lives as teachers, musicians and business people. I encourage you to be fruitful; give a hand to someone in such a situation, perhaps in another country. Enjoy a papaya but also enjoy being the kind of a person that encourages someone—perhaps an encouragement that extends into eternity.
“Time wasted is existence, time used is life.” Young
So many things come to mind about our home in Tremembe da Cantareira in Sao Paulo, some of which I’ve mentioned in another posting. Those bits and pieces fit together as in a jigsaw puzzle and make sense of the story of our lives in Sao Paulo.
When I think of the house itself with its miniscule yard I recall the Papagaio bush that is the Pointsetta though we see them here as fitting in a flower pot. This bush stood some seven feet tall proudly displaying its red flowers that were about eighteen inches across. It was a welcoming sentinel standing guard to one side of our front door and across from the narrow car path down the hill. Nobody came to our home without passing through the wrought iron gate. Here I include a interesting recollection from the 60s; all dating by boys and girls was done one on each side of such a gate. Anything beyond that and a chaperon was there keeping a keen lookout for every move.
Stepping inside you came to our living room with its parquet wood floor. I mention that for those generous cracks between the pieces of wood were the world’s best breeding grounds for fleas. If the house was closed for a week or so, on returning we had a welcoming committee so very glad to see us. Yuk! Fleas, yes fleas would jump to our legs. Fleas may not be like grasshoppers but they sure can jump–then sink in their teeth. We kept them in check by waxing the floor and mixing in kerosene with the wax. But we always had that welcoming committee.
We had a small hi-fi set in the living room and among the materials sent us by the Home Bible League was a small record with one song with words that still deeply move me. “When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ‘ere the day is half done, When we’ve reached the end of our hoarded resources, Our Fathers full giving has only begun.” With our demanding mission work that often seemed 24/7, Doris and I occasionally were bone tired. I’ll always recall walking the living room listening to that song with tears in my eyes. As I look back I recall many times when we both came to the end of our “hoarded resources.” But we are where we are to-day because of the Father’s full giving.
At that time we had an A.B.Dick copier that relied on a stencil made up on our office typewriter. The type on the typewriter had to be clean to cut the stencil so an old toothbrush did the job. The stencil was then lathered with black ink to run off copies. Cutting the stencil was a slow demanding work but somehow or other the cantankerous old copier was able to spew its black ink over a person’s hands and from there who knows where. It was with that machine that Doris printed up materials for a youth program that goes on functioning to-day in most of our churches.
One day while the missionary team was meeting in our home the children that were there went out to play in our back yard. Two boys, our son Vernon and Dan Owsley who were about six or seven years old, somehow found a way to take off the gas cap of our VW van. They discovered that when they dropped small stones into the gas tank those stones made an intriguing sound sliding down the long filler pipe. We never did remove those stones and in any case the VW ran quite well stones and all. And I assume the boys learned something about science.
Only a miniscule part of our lives now come to the surface from our time in Sao Paulo; those we call memories. We can never do the math about how much of our years there have profoundly shaped the lives of each one of our family. And we know only a little of how our lives influenced others. I do recall an incident in a church we built and where we ministered. Doris and I were visiting there years after living there—perhaps her last trip to Brazil. After the service a couple of grown men came and hugged her till she was breathless. Why this joy at seeing her? Well Doris had directed the Sunday School and the youth program. Those men had then been children and involved with Doris in those programs. The days from long ago just had to be expressed in special hugs. That reunion long ago imprinted on my mind says a good bit about our time in Sao Paulo.
“Wisdom is a divine endowment and not a human acquisition.” Anon
There are so many strange and interesting things you’d find in Sao Paulo and Brazil. For instance, I’ve picked cashew nuts right from a Caju tree but of course they are not edible till roasted. The tree was not on our property but hung over onto the sidewalk from a neighbour’s lot. The nut grows rather strangely on the Caju tree by hanging to the bottom of a fruit that looks a bit like a small, soft, red/yellow pear. The fruit itself is commonly used to make a tart lemony tasting drink. We liked it. But one part that nobody eats or even let touch their lips is the husk of the cashew nut. Most people are extremely allergic to the shell and the toxicity can easily be fatal. I’ve read about people becoming ill because of the contact with the shell that had been made part of a swizzle stick.
Then there is the Guarana soda-pop drink that we’d serve you as a visitor; you’d like it I’d bet—that’s one reason it outsells every other foreign-oriented drink in Brazil. Yes, you’d like it but I recall one pastor from the USA that would not touch it. It was not because it had twice the caffeine content of the coffee bean but rather he was not sure what was in the drink. It happened on a Brazilian plane flying to Brazil and quite naturally they offered this Guarana drink on board. He could not speak Portuguese but the drink had the name on the bottle, Champanha Guarana. And that seemed quite clearly to be an alcoholic drink so he refused it. Later those us who lived in Brazil had a laugh at his confusion.
Guarana in its natural form is a small reddish berry-like fruit that is sweet and juicy but I imagine its popularity is linked not so much to its taste but that it has twice the stimulant of coffee beans. Tests have shown, if you believe such studies, that it increases memory and alertness. If Guarana helps memory I ought to have a few cases shipped North to me. But it is not grown in the area of Sao Paulo where we lived but way North in the Amazon basin; there the berries form in huge clusters along the bush’s branches. The tree may grow to over forty feet but most cultivation now is a dwarf variety that produces berries that mature earlier and have more fruit.
There is no way to tell all about the hundreds of different fruits and vegetables that we could buy in the Tucuruvi market. You’ll just have to take a trip there so you can see and taste the Brazilian dishes made from the variety they have on hand. But I want to tell you a bit about the area where we lived—Tremembe da Cantareira. Situated in the Zona Norte it is supposed to have a cooler climate—though we never noted any difference except the cold of its damp winter. It is on the edge of a low mountain range that provides a climate where many vacationers have built their cottages.
The bar situated on the corner of the main street from Tucuruvi and our turn always seemed to be both busy and open every time we passed. Yes open in the sense that the number of roll-up steel doors left it easily available to thirsty passersby. Such a pity that the cheap rum available there destroyed so many lives and I am sure now does the same. The next turn left was our street and it was quite typical for the area since two German families were neighbours. You see this well treed cooler area was attractive to European immigrants. One family was a conundrum to us–the protective high wall hid folks we never once saw. We wondered; you see Brazil was open to war criminals and their money at the end of WWII so our imaginations could create all sorts of scenes.
But our imagination did not need to go too far for Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, came to Brazil. He was an officer and physician at Auschwitz who chose those to go to the gas chamber and performed outrageous surgical experiments on prisoners. We never knew our neighbours—they had a vicious guard dog that would try to jump the high wall when anyone went by. We had warned our children to stay far away but little boys are adventuresome. So Vernon one day climbed up and sat on the wall to survey the world. The dog jumped high enough to take a piece out of his upper arm but was not able to pull him into the yard—no doubt to his death. That incident is just one of many that help me believe in the Eternal Father’s protective angels.
If you descended the hill on which we lived, turned left you’d find soon on the right a Padaria—that is a bakery. Most every morning we had some of their warm bread on our breakfast table. We picked up the wonderful Brazilian habit of not wanting day-old bread on our table. The same Padaria made great pizza but we weren’t much into pizza with so much other great foods available.
So what were we doing in that section of Sao Paulo? We were given the responsibility or it might be called “opportunity” to work with a small group that met in a small hall in a back yard that was about the size of a double car garage. One Sunday while we conducted a service, a dog ran in that smelled to high heaven with rotten meat. I can’t recall any smell quite so bad and neither did the small congregation. Some tried to shoo it out but it kept running from under one pew to another till everyone was involved in getting rid of the dog. You can imagine that was the end of that service and maybe it should have ended then for who knows how well the missionary was doing. That was me of course.
Next post continues with Life in Sao Paulo
“Let the words I speak today be soft and tender, for to-morrow I may have to eat them! Anon
We liked to stop in Turcuruvi on the way home from downtown Sao Paulo, but not because it was about half way and would give a person a break from driving or riding the Tremembe bus. Ah, our stop was the Tucuruvi market, the market Doris and I loved. It was a marvelous market where we could buy so many things for our table. Much was quite exotic under the roof of this large building and available at those open stalls. I want to have you stop at this market with me on this blog and hopefully enjoy every moment.
Brazil is one of the top fruit producing countries in the world and much of that seemed to land right there in the Tucuruvi market. I remember not just the varied-coloured fruits and vegetables piled high in order on tables but especially the Abacaxi; that’s the pineapple but it seemed only distantly related to what we buy here. Those pineapples were about twice the size, more yellow–so different from the ones we know here. More important they were dripping with juice and sweetness when anyone began the slicing. So why am I so enthusiastic about those Abacaxi? This, they never gave me canker sores when now I have to be careful about what we buy locally. Those are picked so green and end up being quite acidy. The Abacaxi is a favourite for Brazilians and often on a sidewalk of a main street someone might be selling slices from a portable stand. Most non-Brazilians might be afraid of picking up some stomach bug at one of those stands. Me no! I never was sick from any pineapple. Oh to be back in Tucuruvi and take you along, just to buy a pineapple or two!
Another priority memory from Turcuruvi were the shrimp. Now when I speak of shrimp you might think of something small. These were prawns and of the same shrimp family but so much bigger. They came up each day to the market fresh and cold from the port of Santos. They were too large to deep fry so we had to slice them lengthwise to make sure they were cooked. But Doris could not do it for she was allergic to them–the fresh prawns would make her hands so red. So Marlene would peel them, cut them in two and take out the central vein. Doris however could eat them when cooked and each of us loved them. I always wondered how she could eat them but never prepare them for cooking.
You’ll want to know who this Marlene was. I don’t have space to give you the whole story though she was a blond young lady who often passed for our daughter. Marlene was from a very poor family and we opened up our home to her when her father died. She went to school from our home and at the same time she gave a hand with the household chores. But since she wasn’t a lot older than our Monica and Vernon, she had a fun time with them. Often Doris and I would be away during the evening doing something related to mission work and we found out that Marlene and our children would often be having a great time playing together while we were gone. But when our vehicle stopped at the gate all went quiet and they returned to their homework. At that time Monica took music lessons and Marlene picked up those lessons second hand. Later in life Marlene not only became a primary school teacher but has been one of the organists in a large church in the interior of the state. Isn’t it interesting the memories of good things that come back from precious times in the past—all because of the Tucuruvi market and prawns.
For those of you who may someday visit Sao Paulo, this city of some twelve million, I should pass on some mundane facts. Sao Paulo is now almost twice the size from those days. No matter how much you’ve studied South America, when you visit there this city will be a surprise. No other in the continent even hints at coming close to Sao Paulo for it is a huge industrial complex that is the pride of all Brazilians.
When your plane comes in low over the city preparing to land, it is surprising to see what looks like one city after another linked to each other. Those skyscrapers centers are small cities that are really just suburbs of the central core. Sao Paulo is high on a cool plateau that lifts it above Rio’s altitude and away from the coast. That makes it especially cool during the winter months so that a sweater or jacket is “de rigeur.” In fact we installed a small kerosene heater in our home while living there just to take off the chill.
Another time I’ll write about other fruits and vegetables including the Guarana fruit that has twice the caffeine of the coffee bean. There is a humorous story there that I shall pass on—as well as other bits and pieces from our time in Sao Paulo. But I can’t close without mentioning the goodness of God doing that time and the lives we saw changed for the better through telling the story of Jesus and his love. So we’ll meet somewhere in Sao Paulo in this blog next week and then whet your appetite for a trip to this country and city we’ll keep writing about.