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Category Archives: Lack of a Marketable Fast Food

Slow And Low, That Is The Tempo

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In America, I’m different.  I didn’t  grow up the way everybody else did because my mother was not like everybody else.  In Portugal, you’d expect it to be more like a homecoming, where I’d have these things in common with others.  Um…. no. For one, all of those things about my childhood had to do with a Portugal that hasn’t existed since 1958, but that is another post.  Two, everyone thinks I am completely deficient by default and that the US is basically the moon populated by crack whores with no long-term memories who freebase burger patties.  During my trip to Portugal, I was asked:

If I knew what cough syrup was and if we had it in America.

If I knew what a delivery driver was.  When I remarked that pizza delivery drivers rode motorbikes instead of cars, my cousin spent about a full five minutes mansplaining pizza transport in shaky English.  One, I’d have understood the Portuguese.  Two, I realize pizza isn’t from Hogwarts.

I was asked if I knew what “faldas” were.  They’re diapers.  My Portuguese grandmother died at 94.  You bet your incontinent relative’s ass I know what a falda is.

If I’d seen a Lamborghini.  My cousin got in a car accident (A CAR ACCIDENT!!) while pointing out a Lamborghini at about 40 mph.  I went to college in La Jolla.  There is a dealership there.  I nervously sidled up to many a Lamborghini in my half-unpainted 1991 Dodge Shadow.

If I could possibly know anything in Portuguese to begin with. My cousin and her mother were shocked I could read the inter titles in the news on Portuguese TV.  Um… Hello.  Those words are almost identical in English and French; “primeiro-ministro” isn’t a huge challenge to understand with someone with any sort of brain activity.

If I figured out how to feed myself.  One cousin declared, with some grave concern, that I must be so fat because I eat rissois for breakfast.  Dude, I haven’t had a real rissol in 18 years, so I’m not holding back.  And despite shoving rissois in my mouth at all hours, Portugal is a giant stair master where I dropped ten whole pounds while eating dessert for breakfast.  BTW, folks, he’s in his 345th trimester.

If I had ever seen fish.  I was asked numerous times if I had seen any dish you can imagine eating in Portugal.  Um… yeah…  the LAST time I came to Portugal, the sardines and cod were not hiding.

Someone asked me once if I’d ever had broth.  Seriously.   America, no soup for you!!!

If I understood the function of the suburbs.  Several cousins seriously thought that because I went to stay with a cousin in Oeiras, I would never venture into Lisbon again.  Let’s review the reasons why Oeiras exists in the first place….

If I knew basic stories about my family.  You should have seen the shock on my 83 year old cousin’s face when I spouted off names of peripheral relatives.  Um… I’ve met these people!!

If I could handle watching international television.  I was perusing the channels and stumbled on a version of the Golden Girls’ episode where Blanche dates the younger jazzercise instructor reenacted by a Spanish cast.  They made comments the ENTIRE time I watched it as to why I would do so if I was not a Spanish speaker.  Come on, transposed Golden Girls?  HOW COULD I NOT WATCH THAT IN ANY LANGUAGE?!?!?

If I ate anything else but hamburgers.  This was because they saw Americans only eat hamburgers on a cruise.  Because I was on that cruise?  If only they knew what I spend on cheese at Whole Foods.

If I could figure out my own reproductive system.  One cousin gave me a speech about the dangers of giving birth after 40.  Someone should tell him that the most dangerous thing about motherhood after 40 is repeating that speech to someone facing down that illustrious birthday.

IF I COULD REGULATE MY OWN MEMORIES.  I was there because I wrote about my memories of Portugal and of stories about my family.  But many relatives said to me and to my mother “OH  HOW COULD SHE REMEMBER, SHE WAS SO LITTLE!!”  The last time I was in Portugal, I was almost 21.  I went there also at age 8, and remember it like it was yesterday.

And of course, it was assumed I have 392,384,298 guns in my house.  Obviously.  In America, I am an anachronistic freak.  In Portugal, it is assumed that I am Ted Nugent.

 

I have no suggestions as to why people believe such silly things.  I don’t remember having conversations like this when I was a student in France.  And you would think that people who know and speak to my mother on a regular basis would realize that if she is intelligent, her daughter might not be stupid.  And they know my mother is a damn brain trust.  Some of them even make fun of her for it.   But some of them are shocked I can remember being 21.  I don’t get it.

 

 

The Genetics of Sausage-Making. Really.

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My parents went to a meeting at their doctor’s today.  Apparently he has some scam where he has figured out how to get people to throw money at him without doing anything he doesn’t normally do, without also having to strip. Good for him.

As my mother was registering for this event,  the nurse detected her accent and asked her where she’s from.

“I was born in Portugal.”  Never mind she had lived more years in California than in Portugal by the time she was forty.

“Oh, then, you must know how to make good sausage.”

Cue a lot of blinking from my mother.  “Erm…. no…. I don’t make…”

“Well then your mother must’ve.”  Oh great.  She thinks it’s genetic.

“Erm, well, no… we’re from a city.” Seriously.  They had some cornfields.  But they were such clueless city folk, when my mother’s aunt moved to Leonore, a farm town in Central California, she thought it appropriate to SQUEEZE A CHICKEN to get the eggs out by breakfast.

Yes I said squeeze it.  Like a toothpaste tube. Let’s all have a moment of silence for that chicken that died that morning, its little chicken day ruined by a broken egg where no broken egg should ever be.

That woman did not ever make a sausage.  Neither did my grandmother, her mother, my mother, or any of my grandmother’s sisters, cousins or nieces, irrespective to how many post-fourth grade years they have completed.  None of them did it.  They were too busy catching the train.

Years ago, my grandmother’s neighbors were out on their front lawn, armpit deep in intestines, curing them to make sausage, when we rolled up in our Sunday best.  That smell is something that I will never forget.  To describe the horror of it wouldn’t do it any justice; it nearly seemed to suck the oxygen out of the air itself.  It was like being covered in a moldy blanket in a dank trunk.  And how it smelled like a whole lot of work.

Having smelled that, and with the utmost respect for those who endure it for the rest of us,  I will never understand how that woman was inspired to shoot my mother a look of abject disappointment when she said this:

“I can tell you where to buy it.”

Bar Portugalia

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I drank too much this weekend and listened to too much Karaoke Pulp. We love you, Jarvis.

*******

Now if you ‘re still awake, I would like to take you to Grubstake, yeah
And go for a pancake, though the back page is full of your avó’s favorite treats.

Picture of cashier and Portugal soccer banner at Grubstake in SF

I take the best photos when I’m drunk!

Oh, let’s get out of this place before that trannie tries to get in your pants….

Move, move quick, you’ve gotta move.
Cat Club’s through,  and Denny’s is full of bums.
Oh look at you, you, let’s get to Polk Street to, to eat real foooooood!

If you please, order choriço before 4am.
You’ll be able to drive past the sheriff on the Bridge, no problem

Ivy eating CHORICO

Ivy will have no trouble driving home tonite!!

If they knocked down this place, it’d defile a repurposed cable car.

Move, move quick, you’ve gotta move.
Come on it’s 3, come on it’s drunk meal time.
Oh look at you, you, you’re looking so confused, is it the Portuguese Menu?

Oh, it’s ok it’s just the price.

If we get through this alive I’ll meet you next week, to split the cod dish this time….

That’s what you get from back paging it.
Seventeen bucks for a plate of fish
Your friends might only sort of want to eat, but don’t know why it’s worth it.
There’s only one place we can go.
Where Super Bock will flow, where other broken pescada dreams go.
Forgive me, Avó.

Feed the Birds. Till they explode.

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If you have a Portuguese mother, you know food.  I’m not talking about cuisine; that’s an individual endeavor. I’m talking v-o-l-u-m-e.  It doesn’t even matter if your mom likes to cook (mine doesn’t).   But mine sure cares that I never spend one moment hungry.   Even if the only reason I haven’t eaten is that I’m a giant lazy ass who is too comfortable in bed to get up and put a waffle in the toaster.

The Portuguese mother, she will ask you if you have eaten at any time of the day.  It doesn’t matter if you have a bag of half-eaten Carl’s Jr. in your hand.  And the mess all over your shirt.   The first level of business is always going to be the question, “Did you eat?”  And she’s not sure if she didn’t witness it.

A fat brown bird on a wire.

I just ate lunch at my mom's.

She will call your cell phone on the opposite coast or in Europe and make sure that you remembered that you are going to get hungry.  How many years you’ve lived away from home and managed not to waste away have no bearing on this.  Oh, no.  She is terrified that at any given moment, you might be starving and when you surface, she will shove food down your throat like you’re a goose destined to be foie gras, but with the loving touch of a mother bird gently stuffing worms down her baby’s throat.  So the voracity of the foie gras maker, but the love of the mother bird, you ask?  Yeah, that’s about right.

It’s her damned job to worry about these things.   Even if you’re  old enough to have a kid yourself.  Even if you possess an AARP card.  Even if  you are on your way to my Overeater’s Anonymous meeting.

Now let’s be clear about that question you Hollywood types are asking yourself.  The Portuguese Mother does not want you to be fat.  You have no excuses for either skipping her food, nor your backfat.  If you are fat, it’s because you stuffed yourself between meals with cakes and cookies the purchase of which was definitely not pre-authorized.  How dare you!  It is not the Portuguese Mother’s fault that you can’t fit in those skinny jeans that make you look like a puta, anyway.  Eat your rice and peas!

She is not stuffing you in an unhealthy way, at least knowingly.  But she is convinced that whatever you are eating outside her presence is completely devoid of vitamins.  So you’re really malnourished, even if you are a hippy health nut.   Especially if you are a hippy health nut.

And God forbid you ever stop eating meat!  My god, do you want to die of anemia?

So I came back to my apartment from recuperating at her house after surgery, and I unloaded three (count ’em!) THREE modestly-sized coolers of food.   It’s the Berlin Airlift for one.

Of course, my mom isn’t just randomly overstocking me; it’s only been six weeks and I am still too weak to go to the store and get more than five or so pounds of stuff without feeling like I’ve been attacked by a bayonet.    So it’s not like my mother is being ridiculous or anything.  Usually I just come back to Oakland with a bag of canned foods.

The Berlin Airlift for One Includes:

4 kinds of meat all divided into single servings and frozen: chicken, two kinds of fish, enough turkey for six turkey burgers, two tiny steaks

A pound of celery

Mushrooms

Olives

Both baby carrots and loose (DELICIOUS ONES!!!)

A pound of quinoa

Lentils

Milk

A very large orange juice

One bag of walnuts

Two kinds of whole wheat pasta (though she was suspicious because they were brown)

Pineapple

Strawberries

Blueberries

A bag of brown rice

A near-gallon of cranberry juice for the cat.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  It really does keep him from getting those notorious blockages that male cats get very easily.  But it’s still funny.  Feel free to laugh.

An entire pallet of cat food for the cat, by the way.  That twerp eats better than I do.  He has an allergy, so he eats canned venison.

Three potatoes

Two loaves of bread

Low-fat cheese

Six eggs

Two boxes of cereal bars, AND

Greek yogurt

So my mom is so awesome I have not had to lift anything over five pounds for the entire week I’ve been home.   I’m going to live a long time without having to, too!   It really means something to a girl with a gash in her stomach!

Thank Heaven for Portuguese moms!

Package Envy

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My Portuguese mother (who has been in the U.S. 50 years now) has a love-hate relationship with pre-packaged American ready-made meals.  It doesn’t matter if the food is from 7-11 or Whole Foods, she tries but she just can’t feel good about serving it.

Honestly, neither can I.   But I’m okay with that.

My mother is not.  So periodically while I was growing up, she would buy packaged meals for us but shake her head and complain the entire dinner that people ate this stuff but that it was disgusting and bizarre.  The next day everything would go back to normal and we’d have actual food again.

The surprise for me here is she is still doing this.

My mother came home from Trader Joe’s with two – count’em – TWO packets of something called “Polenta Vegetable Medley.”

“Why’d you buy two?”  I inquired.

“Oh, A., one is NOTHING! Look at  this!”  And she pinches the bag in half to show that “Trader Joe” actually is “Trader Screw the Consumer.”  “Your father would eat that in no time.”

“You’re not going to just serve that, are you?”

“Why not?”

Why not indeed.  She puts the two air-heavy bags in the freezer.

About two days later, the bloom was off the rose.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  Your father said it looked weird.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll eat whatever you put out.”  My dad is known for dumping yogurt on things and mixing up weird things that don’t go together and making a weird goulash.  Like yogurt, broccoli, and chunks of steak with potatoes and beets.  MMMMM!  And he had a beef with polenta medley?

“Don’t talk about your father like that!!”

“Well…. you know he will….”  It’s not an insult, exactly, right, if he’s proud of it.

“Oh, I should never have bought it.   I’m not sure it’s going to turn out right.”

“I’m sure it’s fine.”  Then we had a ten minute discussion about how much sodium was in  it.  Apparently, it was a freaking salt lick.

“How much sodium are you supposed to have, Mom?”   I really should know this.

“I don’t know, they just said your father should have less sodium.”  Well, if she doesn’t know, and she’s buying the food,  I guess I’m off the hook.

“But how much is a lot?”

“Everything’s a lot, how would I know?”

The entire time my mother was cooking it, one of the packages was sitting on the counter.  She kept going back to it, musing “It just doesn’t look like this.  What did I buy?”  Oh, and “Look at this!  It’s still a block of ice! What would happen if I wasn’t here mashing it! Gosh, do people eat this every day?”

I’m having flashbacks.

So we sat down to dinner, as my mother is giggling like a schoolgirl.

“What?”  I ask.

“The (HEEEEHHEEEHHEEE) Food! Look at this-” and she pokes the Medley with a fork.

It wasn’t that bad.  No worse than anything else at Trader Joe’s.  But my mom has paired it- get this- with pulled pork!  And she has no idea pulled pork is supposed to be served in a bun.

“Where are the buns?”

“Buns?”  She doesn’t just say “Buns.”  She says “Buns” as if I asked her to wrap the pork in rotten human flesh.   Like “BUUUUUNNNNSSS?!?!?!?!?!”

“For the pork.”
“Why do you want buns?”

“That’s what the picture shows on the box, Mom. It’s served as a sandwich”

“I don’t care.  I do whatever I want.”  Except on the polenta.  That needs to be a Kodak moment.

“It’s both pretty good.”

“I don’t know, A.  Do people really eat this every day?”

SORRY FOLKs.

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I didn’t go to Alum Rock.  The shoot was till nine.  Better luck next time!   It was work, though, so no complaints here!

🙂

Dreaming….. of foodie, food, food!

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Tomorrow I’m assisting on a set in Menlo Park as a stills photographer.  Woot WOot!  A.’s back in the game, twice in one week!

But I digress.   This is not an unemployment blog.  Or a HAPPY Join the BUSY-  YAAAAAY!!! blog.

I live in the East Bay, and while we have our Portuguese stuff (Luso Mercado, that Hayward bakery that supplies all the other stores like Spanish Table in Berkeley) but I have longed to put a toe in the supposedly fertile waters of San Jose.    And I would never dip such a toe without having a reason to drive over the bridge…..  Work is a reason, right?

Apparently there is a street chock full of delights.  I’ve been there, as a child.  My parents picked out tapes for me to learn Portuguese (HA!), and my mom picked through some lace stuff but didn’t buy any of it.   “I’ve got that at home and we made it ourselves.”   And she did- her cousins all sat around making lace on their free time until they finally got a TV.   You think hipsters invented Stitch n’ Bitch?  Nuh-UH!!!!  Now nobody knows how to make lace, but we do have Portuguese Television now!  We did leave with half a dozen keychains and books.  I think even then, we had satiated our need for sculptures of the Galo de Barcelos.  I had no idea there was FOOD!!!  

Galo de Barcelos

I always feel like… somebody’s watching me…. ain’t got no privacy!@ woahoh!


And since I’ve started this blog, I have begun friending restaurants from the luso-oasis of San Jose.  I dare say I’ve maxed out friending Luso-affiliated pages; I’ve friended everything from tourism in Lisbon, the National Soccer team, some Franco-Portuguese thing based on a Mastercard that I can’t really understand but looked cool.  God, I hope it’s not some weird fringe group. I friended FNAC Portugal (to which I have never actually been, but I did love FNAC in France so why wouldn’t I love it somewhere else?), Fanta Portugal (Portugal was where I first enjoyed its orangey goodness), about a zillion IDES halls.  

I was beyond shocked that  IDES halls actually have a Facebook presence.  Shocked and deeply impressed a their foresight….. The last time I went to randomly photograph dancing at an IDES hall, there were exactly four tween girls in jeweled crowns, and two hundred people over seventy. Not quite the Facebook demographic…. Not that there aren’t lots of exceptions…. Hi Dad, did ya like my status this week?    But it’s a brilliant strategy; who’s going to continue to crown the young if those four tweens are the only people rolling up to the festa in 70 years?

All I can say though, is I hope and pray that when I’m 70, I can cut a rug like THAT!

A couple dance as the lights go up at the IDES Hall in Mountain View.

Look at them go! A couple dances on as the lights go up at the IDES Hall in Mountain View.


So I peruse my “Likes” for restaurants that I might just… glide by after work tomorrow….  and I see this:

     Bacalhau Grill & Trade Rite Market

‎…..Live Music Friday`s….
….April 29th, 2011 6:30PM…
………Carlos Silva………….
…Live Portuguese Music…
….Have dinner and the music is on US….
Usually they specify what’s for dinner.  Hmmmm.   What’s up with that?   

Then I notice the PREVIOUS post:

Ola,Mariscada de Camarao…Shrimp & seafood stew
Alcatra…Azorean Pot Roast
Filet de peixe…red snapper fillet    
  
    AND:

 BACALHAU DE NATA   &    BACALHAU A GOMES SA

  

 FISHHHHY!

YUUUUUUMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 – OH

                 ME,

    OH

                                               MY!!! –


I am ALL ABOUT Gomes de Sá.    It’s a dish of salted cod (of course) made as a kind of casserole with eggs and olives and other stuff that is just so delicious I want to get up and do a jig, but neighbor has to get up really early for her shift.   I am jigging in my heart.  🙂

Now, I have no idea if these are going to be Gomes de Sá or Gomes de Sog (I’m sure the food’s fine, but I can’t resist that pun!), but hey, I’m willing to take a shot.  And they got live music too!
  

Music, Cod, and my camera, AND a stipend for the day from working.  Even if the shoot goes too late for me to make it for dinner, just reading about it makes me smile.  And I’ll keep collecting restaurant fantasies on my blog page on Facebook.  MMMMMMM!  I’m going to bed now, to dream sweet fishy freelancer dreams.  Yum!