What We Ate

catching up

I’ve started several posts this week, but run out of time to complete them, so I’ll just combine a few things into a week-in-review sort of thing.

Firstly, I finally figured out what these are:


They look like a cross between a sea creature and a mouse. But they’re “maxixi,” which is kind of like a short, fat, very seedy, slightly bitter Brazilian cucumber.

First you scrape off all the bumps and cut off the tails


Then I chopped them up and mixed them with red onion, tomato, and added a little rice vinegar, and served them on salad with hummus and pita bread.


Oh, and hearts of palm, of course. I’m eating them in/on everything here.

I performed a recital last Wednesday with a saxophonist. She’s working on editing the video into individual clips to put on youtube, so I’ll post a link as soon as they’re up.

Yesterday a friend took us on an extended tour of Brasilia and some of its surroundings.

We started with a 100km drive to the Iquitira park to see the waterfall.

We hiked through the woods and stood in the waterfall rain, and then walked back and bathed in a lovely river pool. It was sublime. On the way back we stopped at the park’s lanchenette, which consisted of an elaborate buffet with LOTS of wonderful vegan options, live music, and some quati ruffling through the garbage bins.

Sorry about the exposure on the above pictures; the camera was set for a completely different kind of light, and I had to act fast before they ran off…

Next we drove through a very interesting town, founded by people of an unusual religion, who were parading through the town in elaborately sequins-ed gowns with tulle veils, and the men in vests as part of a regularly-recurring ritual. I didn’t take pictures, so as not to be disrespectful.

Next we drove to the “new” TV tower to see the whole Federal District, which was unfortunately closed for maintenance (the TV tower, that is, not the DF, although given the current political climate, that might not be a completely terrible idea). We did get some lovely pictures from the ridge.


Note the tower poking up to the clouds, as the next pictures are from us standing halfway up or so this “old” TV tower. The water is Lago Paranoá.


The two white arches are Ponte JK, the bridge named after Juscelino Kubitschek, who was the president of Brasil when Brasilia was conceived of, planned, and built.


The “new” TV tower

Next we drove back into Brasilia, and went up in the old TV tower.


I do heart Brasilia.


The fountain (turned off as we ascended in the elevator, due to the water shortages) and the esplanade in the distance (the cross road is the Eixo Rodoviaria). The dome buildings and the “H” are the congressional buildings.


The JK bridge from a little bit closer


Almost in the middle you can see a gray line/smudge ascending into the clouds; this is the new TV tower.


The convention center (straight ahead) and the National Stadium (on the right).

Next we visited the Church of Dom Bosco, which we call the Blue Church. You’ll see why.


Every wall looked like this; there was purple in the corners.


Not sure why this is so blurry except maybe my phone was overwhelmed by the 7,000+ glass balls involved in making this chandelier.

Lastly we drove to “Pontão”, a beautiful recreational area along the south side of Lago Paranoá. I believe I’ve posted some pictures from here before, but here are a couple more, in case you’re not tired of beautiful sunset-over-water scenes.

Today I’m going to make traditional north-eastern-Brazil tapioca (not the pudding), and to try to turn this:


into mandioca pudding.

I’ll post pictures if it turns out…


a bunch of random pictures

a different brazilian sky.JPG

a different Brazilian sky

And even though we are supposed to be in the dry season, we have seen more clouds this week than maybe in our whole visit so far. And yesterday, oh, what a downpour!

just another lunch at the cafeteria

just another lunch at the cafeteria

The oval light-green things are “Maxixi” — I have seen them in the grocery store but had no idea what to do with them. They seemed to have been boiled. Tasted like a stewed green tomato.


an orchid “in the wild” (right outside our apartment)


My practicing workshop at the University


I haven’t been as vigilant about taking pictures of our food, but here is our vegan sandwich from a couple of days ago:

Only Daughter and I went to an authentic Brazilian fashion show last night, featuring a clothing line of the daughter of two of our new Brazilian friends. There were drinks, lots of trendy clothes and trendy accessories and extremely trendy young people (and their very supportive but perhaps slightly-less-trendy parents), booming music, strobe lights. It was loud, and fun.

Only Daughter (left) wearing one of the designer’s (right) creations.

Today we tried to go to the botanical gardens for breakfast, but so did half of Brasilia, so we went to the Cultural Center instead. 

There were several, shall I say, interesting spiders. We were careful when walking under the webs — given their size, it seems they might be responsible for taking care of any children left unattended.

Only Daughter didn’t like the spiders.

After we ate (tapioca com caju, cuzcuz, some kind of roasted banana with cinnamon and jam, fresh-squeezed suco a l’aranja, café)(sorry, forgot to take a picture; I kind of suck as a blogger, don’t I?!?) we walked around a bit. I managed to snap a picture of the Ponte JK (The bridge named after Juscelino Kubitschek, who was president of Brazil when Brasilia was built) 

You can just see the arches through the trees. I will continue to try to get a better picture. It’s a very cool bridge, and Lago Paranoá is lovely.

and a few pictures of a Erwin Wurm exhibit, “O corpo é a casa” (The body is the house)

I can’t remember what this was called; I called it the passionate frankfurters. I don’t think that’s right, though.

Husband looks thinner than usual today. Must be that vegan lifestyle.

big bugs and strange squash

Yesterday saw another outing, as we went to get our 3x4cm pictures taken for our registration with the federal police, and then walked what looked on Google Maps to be 4 “blocks,” but turned out to be almost 2 miles to our favorite vegan restaurant. (Google/Apple Maps have not done a very good job mapping Brazil. I find I have better luck going to the Uber app and finding what I’m looking for. Wonder what map app Uber uses.)(read that last sentence aloud. Pure poetry.)

On the way we encountered this shiny fellow

Luckily we haven’t encountered anything like that inside the apartment.


This morning, after printing 10 pages of forms and copying numerous documents for the upcoming registration, I had the opportunity to observe the children’s music programs at UnB. Started in 2002, by the man who is now the dean of the department of the arts, it has grown from a single class for a handful of early childhood music students to 1,000 children there every week. I sat in on a piano class, peeked in at various string groups, and watched the orchestra rehearse. A vibrant, exciting program. Really fun to see, and made me miss my days teaching at a community music school. I’m hoping to have more involvement there as the semester continues.

We had a lovely lunch with the founder of the program, his delightful and erudite wife, and enthusiastic son Joao. Only Daughter was with me, and enjoyed having a few hours out and about, and the lively conversation over lunch. Plus there was meat.*

For dinner I made homemade corn/flour tortillas and roasted chuchu (known by some as chayote) and assembled them into delicious vegan tacos. We topped them with homemade guacamole from the fantastic enormous avocados they have here and some homemade salsa, featuring these lovely little peppers.

I don’t know what they are, but they pack a lot of punch. When I found them in the store yesterday, I sent a picture to our landlady asking if they were “hot.” She replied not at all. I think we need to talk. 🔥💥☄️

Actually, from her message of this morning, I think she thought I was asking about the chuchu.

The homemade tortillas and salsa were made out of necessity. We were surprised to find no taco shell/tortillas or any kind of salsas in the stores. Homemade is better anyway.

So good I’d make them for company. 🙂

*Husband and I are vegan, she is not.

it’s really difficult when you don’t speak the language, or have a working SIM card; and, well, cake

Recharging cell phones and buying plane tickets from a different country is actually really, really difficult.

Up there with buying hair dryers.

Apparently the pre-paid SIM cards don’t tell you when they’ve run out of minutes, or data, or whatever makes them work. Or maybe they do, but the text messages they send (every day, numerous times) are all in Portuguese, of which I have still a it-all-makes-perfect-sense-in-my-Brazilian-Portuguese-instruction-book-but-not-so-much-anywhere-else grasp of the language. Also, apparently, after ~7 days with a new, prepaid SIM card, you have to enter a CEP number (a Brazilian social-security number) to continue using your cell phone. This is so the police can find you if you commit a crime and then call your homie to tell him about it. Unfortunately, since the really enthusiastic voice on the phone telling you this when you try to dial out IS SPEAKING, rather quickly, IN PORTUGUESE, this is really hard to figure out.

Plus we don’t have CEP numbers.

Who knew?

It does make me wish I’d studied more Portuguese. Or that I have a handler.* Or never actually had to leave the apartment.

And while I am grateful that so many people are working so hard to protect my credit card information, it would be really, really helpful if they wouldn’t deny our $2.50 Uber ride from the grocery store or our airplane tickets to Rio even after verifying my billing address TWICE online.
To make myself feel better, I invented a vegan carrot cake.
I didn’t really measure anything, only partially because we don’t have any measuring cups or spoons, but it was something like this:

  • Blend a handful of dates + 2 small Brazilian bananas + a little bit of soy/laranja (a strange combination of soy milk and orange juice that I bought the other by accident, thinking I was buying orange juice). Add about another cup (by which I mean a coffee cup)(not a mug) of soy/laranja/ Stir to blend. Add 2 grated carrots and one grated apple, then ½ c. of raisins or so. Then throw in a few tablespoons of natural cane sugar, a teaspoon of “quemico” leavening (I think it’s baking powder), a coffee-cup cup of oat bran and some flour until it looks like about the right texture. Scrape into a baking pan lined with foil because we’re also not using butter and the olive oil I bought the other day tastes weird so it’s not going in my baked goods.
  • Bake until it springs back. Then add 10 minutes because it has a lot of vegetation in it and it’s going to get really soggy if you take it out of the oven when you first think it’s done.

Don’t ask me how I know this, but let’s just say the “cake” was very “moist.”**

Today I made oat pancakes by soaking some oatmeal in soymilk and then adding some oat bran that I whirred around in the blender to make it more like flour, some more of the quemico leavening and a little bit of salt. They were fabulous. Probably helped by the fact that they were topped with delicious Brazilian mangoes. I am going to miss the produce.

Speaking of which, we read that limes are really, really good for you. Which is awesome, since we’re consuming around six a day. Did I mention that they cost ~ ten cents apiece?

Only Daughter and I took a little walk today and discovered that the “panificadora” (*thanks JoJo) (bakery) also sells produce and juice and wine and pastries and chocolate. Besides buying several delicious still-warm-from-the-oven mini loaves of pão I bought four onions for around $.30 and about a pound of carrots for $.80.

Have I mentioned how much I’m going to miss the produce?
*International travel looks so easy on Madame Secretary.

**I hate that word; except for when it comes to cake.

first day of “work”

Where did the week go?

On Monday I did go into the university. Ended up gone for almost 11 hours, got lots of little mini tours, sweated, a LOT!, met lots of people, tried very hard to communicate in Portuguese. (Maybe next week.) Everyone is delightful, friendly, welcoming, excited for me to begin.  Husband and I also went to the graduate faculty meeting later in the week, where further plans were made.
Turns out I will be teaching a combined piano pedagogy course, including graduate student(s), undergraduate students, and an invitation will be issued to piano teachers in the community who might also want to attend. There is an accompanying class running currently as well, so the women teaching that class suggested that I teach master classes “on demand,” whenever students have some pieces ready. Perfetto!

I was then able to begin seriously planning the class, and have made significant progress to begin in a couple of weeks.

I also discovered quite extensive paperwork/bureaucracy to register the three of us with the federal police. I got my three documents completed, but realized an error in one section, and still need to complete the three for Only Daughter and Husband. We are off today to get our photos taken, then payments need to be made at a bank, and then everything along with multiple copies of passport and visa pages, etc., etc., need to be taken next Friday to the federal police station for “strangeiros.” It’s all made a little bit more complicated by the fact that we did not bring a printer with us, so must go to the university to print anything. Have considered buying a cheap printer here, but after the ordeal with the hair dryer, am a bit reluctant to purchase anything other than food and basic sundries.

In any case, I am eager for it to be completed, as I tend to worry about something going wrong. Probably Trump-era paranoia.
A friend of mine is a fabulous Indian cook, and has been posting entertaining Food-Network type videos on facebook, which inspired us to make chapati yesterday. We didn’t have a rolling pin, so I used a water bottle, and we didn’t have the grate to finish the bread off over an open flame, so we just charred it a bit more in the pan. They turned out quite well, I must admit. We ate them with red-lentil dal for dinner last night.

Next time I’m at the store I’m going to buy the chuchu (chayote). Any suggestions?