The Brazilian Churrasco

“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.

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