Even though I’m madly in love with Rio de Janeiro and want to stay here forever, I have to get down on my gringo knees and admit there are still some things I miss about the USA. Or maybe “thing.” OK, I admit it, there are certain kinds of food that I really miss.
Peanut butter used to be one, and I had to beg friends visiting from the USA to bring me a JUMBO jar, but now we have yummy p.b. in the supermarket, so I can freely indulge in my p.b and j. and fried p.b. sandwiches. Yup, you heard it right: FRIED peanut butter sandwiches.
I used to miss grapefruit, too, but lo and behold, we now have scrumptious, big ruby red grapefruits at the super. I’m really surprised, because I don’t know anyone here who likes them. One of my Brazilian friends refers to a grapefruit as “an orange gone wrong.”
More and more international foods are arriving here, but there are still some of my favorites that I haven’t been able to find: Ethiopian food, especially injera bread, GOOD Chinese food and GOOD Mexican food (trust me, they’re both really BAD here). The Chinese food here is beyond awful: picture a plate of yakisoba (which I thought was Japanese…isn’t it?) made with overcooked noodles, undercooked unidentified veggies and a couple of rubbery chunks of chicken. Maybe it’s because the cooks in Chinese restaurants here have names like João and Gustavo instead of Zhang or Wei, I don’t know. I’ve noticed an influx of Chinese into Rio in the past few years, though, so maybe there’s hope. Don’t make me talk about the Mexican food. I’ve had Mexican food in Mexico and it pains me to talk about the sad stuff that passes for enchiladas and chiles rellenos here.
But I have to confess that what I really miss the most are Mallomars, Pop Tarts, York Peppermint Patties, Mounds bars, Triscuits, bagels, pickled herring, cocoa with marshmallows in little envelopes, sour cream, and sweet corn. That’s right, no sweet corn. The corn here is the field variety, usually used for cattle feed in the USA. It’s flavorful, but tough and chewy and nothing like those sweet, juicy summer ears of corn I used to love when I was a kid. Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, the bread. The bread here just isn’t very good. There are a kazillion varieties of whole-grain sliced bread that all taste alike and have hard little seeds in them that break your teeth. And lots of plain boring white sliced bread. Brazilians like big white rolls that they call “French bread” for breakfast with their coffee, but what I miss is my New York light deli rye with caraway seeds. Oh how it miss it.
But don’t get me wrong — Brazilian food is very good, and often wonderful. I love beans and rice and all the rest of it. There are some wonderful fish dishes here, and of course the fruit is to die for. We have some great gourmet ice cream, too, so most of the time I don’t sit around pining over the things I can’t get any more…I pull up a chair and enjoy myself. Bom apetite, as we say down here!