Sunday, December 12, 2010

May 17, 2010 – April Reviewed

May 17, 2010 – April Reviewed
I remember April as always been a beautiful month. It’s the beginning of Fall in the South Hemisphere. The temperature drops a bit, and with that, we can feel the breeze, the aromas in the air. We can hear the dry leaves being carried by wind. It’s also near Easter holiday, and in Brazil, Good Friday is also a holiday. Being essencially a Catholic country, many people don’t eat meat a few Fridays anteciding the holiday. Instead, they eat fish, and on Good Friday, dried salty cod known as “bacalhau”. (I say “they” as I don’t observe this tradition of not eating red meat. But I can always eat bacalhau or any kind of fish, any time of the year, for that matter.)
April also is my birthday month. My 8-year old daughter really wanted to buy me a present. After I found disguised ways to give her money, I drove her to a supermarket that has a few specialty store by the check out counters. She was dressed in pink, carrying a Barbie purse, with her hair combed and tied, and with a make-up on like any grown-up. She was pretty. I pretended to go buy groceries while she was shopping around. She took her time to find me a gift. She went from one store to another, lift a few souvernirs, looked at the price. I ran back and forth to gather my groceries, always making sure that she was under my site. I saw her now carrying two little bags while looking up in front of a counter. She was paying for the purchase and having it wrapped. Hidden behind the supermarket cashier, a few yards of distance, this picture placed a definite mark on my heart. It was her first time shopping alone. She was responsible for all the money she had taken. I was fearful that a salesperson would force her buy the most expensive and useless object. She left that store and entered another one to buy a card and something else. When I met her where we had agreed upon, I pretended I knew nothing. So, we went grocery shopping together. At some point, this is really to break my heart, she got lost as I went to check out far from we last had been together. I didn’t want to waste any time looking for her, so I went on to check out. But this took a while. When I found her, her face was all pink. She was in tears holding those little bags with my gift and a purse, beside a security guard ready to annouce the lost child. Then, I almost crying. Her happy day had turned out bad for my lack of patience. She gave me the gift next day morning and made a comment that the gift cost R$16,90, “really expensive”. “First I bought two gifts for myself, then I bought yours, and the card, and as I had some money left, I went on and bought this dog for myself. I still have money left! Well, 12 cents.” – she said.
My daughter’s gift was a deodorant of a good brand. “Mom, the perfum was too expensive, but I found a deodorant with the same aroma a lot cheaper!” I thought that the gift was good. A lot better than the decorative dog made of plaster (carrying a sign saying “Welcome”) she bought for herself.
The same way that my birthday was so special for her, Easter was much expected. In Brazil, we have a tradition of giving each other a hollow chocolate egg filled with chocolate candies. Lately, some manufactures include toys. She begged me for the biggest chocolate egg but I surprised her with a cheaper one. To make the feast even better, my aunt came bringing bag full of chocolate and Easter bread.
I had a very busy month. Besides being very festive with changing season, I took a class on Artesanal Milk Processing, that means, how to make cheeses, yogurt, dulce de leche, condensed milk, and other goodies out of milk.
My region is not the largest milk producing area, but small farmers still carry on the tradition. Many of them deliver raw milk to several dairy companies scattered around the state. Some, like my neighbor, hand milk the cows and make farmer’s cheese for a local market. I am one the of the priviledged people that has access to raw milk, which sale is prohibited by the sanitary laws. Even though I learned to make many types of cheeses, specially those ones that don’t need special molds (fungus) or those ones that require prolonged curing time. Most of cheeses we eat in Brazil are the farmer’s cheese, which can be eaten next day, and has very limited shelf life. Next, we call it “Half-cured”, which is similar to farmer’s cheese and it can be eaten uncured. In my country, due to the high temperature, we need to cure our cheese in the refrigerator. The same cheese can be cured longer to resemble Parmesan cheese. I also learned to make mozzarela, quark, yogurt, ricotta, and soft cheese that tastes like and looks like camembert without the mold.
Besides the short term course in Milk Processing, I am still on with Beekeeping Class and Horticulture. I learned to process bee’s wax, to make it into sheets and to pile a compost.
I am on again with my vegetable garden, starting to harvest arugula. I sowed lettuce of different variety than last year’s, wild chicory, flat leaf chicory, parsley, and cilantro. I haven’t started with many other veggies for I am waiting for my Horticulture class to build a greenhouse nursery. Then, I will be able to sow onto trays and have them thrive. I was never able take seedlings from trays as they died prematurely.
My old chayotte vines suffered with some type of disease and I had to cut them to the roots. They are now growing slowly, but I had planted a new one by the skeleton of an orange tree. They grew hanging on the tallest part of the tree. When I am able to see the fruit, it is too large, hardened, and prickly. Some are hanging on the lower part, and these ones, I am diligent in collecting. Some like to boil and season as a salad. I like to sautee or braise cubed chayotte with garlic with minimum amount of water so not to burn. After turning off the flame, I sprinkle with fresh cilantro leaves.
I was able to dig out some purple yam. After leaving a few days curing under the sun, I threw them into the blaze. It comes out burned on the outside, but creamy inside. That’s the best way of eating yam. The biggest harvest is coming up in June.
Last year, I cut down most of our orchard trees, saving a few citrus trees. Poncan, Japanese variety of tangerine, yield generously again. The tangerine tree by my old house also carried ripe fruits. While the new citrus trees don’t bring fruits, the old ones will be saved.
During April, I found seven puppies hidden under a thick grass away from my house. They came out ready to eat solid food. In a few days, they were all gone. No puppies were enough to give away. Even strangers came to ask for one. Under my daughter’s protest and tears, we let them go. We already have six dogs, five of them Lab mix. Only one is a small mutt.
During April, my daughter learned to ride a bicycle without the support. I can’t conceive a childhood without bike riding. It was one of my greatest pleasure when child, even though I had to steal my brother’s bicycle, as I didn’t have one of my own. I bought my first used bike in America at age of 26 and rode on the streets of Berkeley until I bought my first car (used).

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