Brazil:  Amazon and Salvador da Bahia, July 2009
Making Caipirinhas, Samba Dancing Lessons, Piatã Beach, Fried Cheese on a Stick, Benção
Page 11 of 17


But before the samba lessons, we hung out in the kitchen.  Alex described to me how to make banana da terra, a delicious treat where very green bananas are fried once, stored, then fried again.

And it was also time to learn to make caipirinhas.  Earlier in the day, I had purchased cachaça and limes.  Now I was going to learn to make Brazil's national drink.

How to make caipirinhas:

Each glass gets one large lime and a third of cachaça.  You measure out how many limes you needed for your servings, placing the sliced limes in a pitcher.  Then, using a special caipirinha mashing stick, you squished the limes until you are certain all the juice is out.

You pour liberal amounts of sugar to taste, but generally about two large spoonfuls per small glass. 

You then pour the cachaça into the jar, having figured out the amount you would need to create a third of cachaça with each serving. 

Add tons of ice, put a lid on the jar, shake, limes, cachaça, sugar all mixing together thoroughly.

Pour into glasses.  Distribute the slices of lime equally among the glasses.  Add straws.  Done.

Under Alex's tutelage, my caipirinhas were quite tasty and refreshing.  And now, we've made them here at home in the ten days or so I've been back.

Refreshed and ready to go, it was time for samba lessons with Jaqueline.  We learned the basic steps.  "um, dois, trê, dois, três".  Three steps to every bar, even though the song was in 2/4 time.  Sure.  I had trouble moving my feet properly. 

Then, Jaqueline added side-to-side arm movements.  I hadn't gotten the steps, so the arm movements were beyond me.  But there was more, much more.  Choreographed steps, flexing, hip movements, too many movements at once.  I couldn't follow an aerobics class, so how was I to master this?

Perhaps Alex had the answer.  You stop dancing to eat banana da terra.  They were, after all, delicious.

We talked with guests Ken, Gillian, and Liz, a law student from Dallas to study Portuguese for three weeks.  A fun Sunday evening.

13 July Monday - Lisa and I went to Piatã, a relatively close beach to the north of Barra, where we were staying.  We overshot it by a couple of bus stops and walked back.  We were warned to be careful along a more isolated beach, but thankfully nothing happened.  We were constantly receiving warnings every day. 

As we approached Piatã, a man in a red shirt came running out.  He had a barraca, a beach hut serving drinks and food.  A larger, more aggressive man in a yellow shirt then came running up.  He too had a barraca.  The two began arguing, the man in the red shirt clearly protesting that he was talking to us.  I knew immediately that regardless of where we ate, it would not be with the man in the yellow shirt.  We chose the first man's restaurant and were not disappointed.  He was a warm, hospitable guy who went out of his way to make sure that we were comfortable, the bathrooms were clean for Lisa, and we were happy.  I loved eating at his barraca.

And while waiting for our fried fish freshly hauled from the Atlantic, we met various vendors plying their wares.  This man in the photo was selling balls of incense.  He oozed charm, calling the ladies princesas lindas (beautiful princesses).  He was having a great time, and had missed his calling as the host of a cruise ship.  Here he poses with one of the princesas lindas.

The fried fish was excellent, but what astounded me was how delicious the fries were.

We later ate locally at La Dolce Vita, an Italian restaurant with good pizza.  Alex later said that he had briefly lived just above the pizzeria.  He showed us a documentary that he had filmed about a 58 year old capoeira master and trailers for Salome, Magic Dance, and Afro Evolution, impressive theatrical productions that Jaqueline had choreographed.

14 July Tuesday - Lisa and I walked along the beaches close to Open House Barra, mostly near Porto da Barra, shown in the photo.  Porto da Barra is where Tropicalia musicians Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso hung out while creating their 1960s masterpieces, fusing rock, Brazilian rhythms, psychedelia, and Latin American rhythms together to shake up the Brazilian music world.

And something that shook up the beachgoers were the appearance of people from the Amazon walking down the streets.  We believe they were from the cultural center up the street.

Meanwhile, Lisa and I realized that you could buy all sorts of items on the beach, ranging from beaded necklaces to drinks to fried cheese on a stick.  Yes, fried cheese on a stick.  Had we gone to heaven?

Northeastern Brazilians called it queijo coalho.  We called it delicious.  And at 2 reals, it was a bargain. 

These cold sticks of cheese on skewers were cooked over coals that were very hot but no longer flaming.  Each stick was grilled until charred and slightly crusty, the inside gooey and warm but not actually melting. 

It was served, if you wished, with oregano, pimentos, and even honey (see the container with the yellow lid at the bottom). 

How we wished that queijo coalho was served on our beaches here in Los Angeles. 

Lisa eating queijo coalho.  One had to be somewhat careful.  The middle of the cheese is gooey, and can slide down the stick.  One guest at Open House Barra, trying the fried cheese on a stick for the first time, had it fall off the stick and onto the ground.  "I picked up the rest that hadn't touched the ground and ate it, that's how good it was."

We walked back as it began to rain heavily.

But later that evening, we took a bus to the Pelourinho.  Every Tuesday was the Benção, or Blessing, originating from Igreja do Santo Antônio's custom of giving bread to the poor.  But Bahia had also turned this religious event into a giant street party.  Mont Serrat, a band led by a man named Geronimo, played for free on the steps of a church, where Lisa and I had a great time.

Geronimo, brandishing a trumpet, and his band Mont Serrat played island and Afro-Brazilian rhythms for the packed, er, steps of the church.

After a couple of hours, Lisa and I wandered into the street.  The street party was in full swing, with many dancing to the insistent drumming of Olodum.  Olodum had performed with Michael Jackson, filming a video in the Pelourinho, and were a cultural group that offers cultural activities, largely based around music, to young people, and seek to combat racism and increase pride among Afro-Brazilians.

With the revelry and the crowd, though, one had to be careful of pickpockets.

Brazil:  Amazon and Salvador da Bahia, July 2009
Page 11 of


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EXTRA:  Lisa's Photos and Videos of the Amazon

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