Eating My Way Round The World: Barbecue In Brazil
Today, we have another of my themed posts. As food has always been one of my favourite subjects, we’re taking a gastronomic trip around the world, looking back on some of the more memorable meals I’ve eaten during my travels. We started by spending Christmas in Jordan, then headed to Russia for a wedding in St Petersburg, before journeying nearly two and a half thousand kilometres south east to Nalchik in Kabardino Balkaria for supper in a cave. Next we took a short journey, travelling just over three hundred kilometres south east, to Tbilisi for a post-conference banquet. And last month we journeyed nearly twenty thousand kilometres eastward to the small town of Greenville in North Carolina to eat snacks at the ballgame.
Today, on our search for a memorable meal, we’re travelling four and a half thousand kilometres south eastward to Sao Paulo in Brazil. I used to travel there a couple of times each year to audit one of our contractors, but one trip in 1992 was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
It was a long, overnight flight from Heathrow and we’d slept for most of it. Early in the morning, not realising my blood pressure was much lower than normal, I jumped out of my seat, hoping to steal a march on the other passengers, some of whom took far too long sprucing themselves up in the tiny bathroom prior to landing. Closing the door, I promptly passed out and ended up on the floor – not easy in such a restricted space.
Fast forward through a CPR session that would have been embarrassing had I been conscious; a dash through the underground tunnel at Sao Paulo airport; a siren-filled journey through the early morning rush-hour traffic; and a day of utter confusion as I had no idea where I was, what had happened – or why everyone was talking in a strange language.
Eventually, it was all sorted out; tests proved there was nothing seriously wrong with me; and my company flew my husband out to meet me and bring me home. After I was discharged from hospital, we had just one night to relax before heading to the airport. Our hosts took us to one of the famous Brazilian barbecue restaurants. I’d been many times before, but for Michael, it was a new experience.
Brazil in the 1990s was no place for vegetarians. The array of meat was magnificent and ranged from tiny chicken hearts to huge haunches of beef, all cooked and served on spikes. You didn’t have to leave your seat; the waiters roamed around the place carving thick slices onto every plate that looked even slightly less than full. The salad bar in the corner of the room was pretty much for show and a pretence of balance rather than anything else.
We had a wonderful meal, which more than made up for the four days of hospital food I’d eaten so far on my visit. And eventually, just as he was beginning to look desperate behind his heaped plate, we relented and explained to Michael the purpose of the cotton reels on the table in front of him. Coloured red at one end and green at the other, they acted as a traffic light and were the only way of switching off the seemingly endless supply of food arriving at the table!