Friday, October 19, 2012

Desperately Seeking...

Living in a place (far from home) where you don't get much of the food you were raised on can be trying, at times. It can be an added stressor, if you are going through a "missing home" phase.

There are three main challenges to finding particular foods or spices. Some can be overcome with time, and some you may just have to work around. (Get creative: think bribery, extreme lengths, etc. Okay. I'm kidding! Kinda...)

The main challenge is availability. Depending on just how far you are from an international hub or port, you might be delightfully surprised with a treasured find, or begin to feel a bit like Coronado in his fruitless search for the Seven Cities of Gold.

I don't remember exactly when I stopped counting how many stores I'd perused in search of chili powder, but I did... It just became a habit of checking the spice aisle, no matter why I was there, or how quick a shopping trip it was supposed to be. I was on chili-powder-seeking-autopilot.

About a year later, it paid off.

Image found here.

The second challenge is the language barrier. This is key, since some spices or foods may sound deceptively similar in two different languages, when they aren't at all. Manjericão [pronounced: "mahn-zheh-rdee-cone"] sounds like a shoo–in for marjoram, not to mention I never even saw manjerona [pronounced: "mahn-zheh-rdoh-nuh"] as it is much harder to find.

...but manjericão is actually basil! I went months without having any basil at home, because I had used it up and "couldn't find any." It was only later that I found out that I had passed on it a hundred times (not knowing it was basil) because I still had marjoram at home. Doh!

Then again, orégano is a direct translation. I love it when that happens!

Image found here.

The remaining challenge in finding flavors from home depends not only on where you are, but the scruples of the people from whom you are buying. Some opportunistic people see an accent as a sort of added tax on your purchase. It may or may not happen to you, but be aware that you run the risk of being ripped off until you get your sea legs and figure out how to barter (or inform them that you aren't a tourist, but a neighbor).

"Eu não sou uma turista, viu?! Eu moro aqui."
I'm not a tourist, got it [see]?! I live here.

...and sometimes, in our search for fabled golden whatevers, we encounter things that are way more cool than things we've previously known.

...and although it may take years or maybe never even happen that we reach our original goal, the unexpected pleasant surprises along the way take the sting out what is "missing," and we learn to not only "live with it," but revel in the bountiful blessings of our new reality.

Yes. I'm still talking food, but apply it as you see fit.

I'm specifically referring to the amazing, out of this world (but not really, since they are the norm in Brazil), delicious giant avocados that regularly rock my world these days.

The typical avocado that is available at any grocery store or farmers' market here in Brazil is about 3-5 times bigger than the Hass avocados that I was accustomed to eating back home. Some local farmers' markets have access to even bigger breeds, and being an avocado lover, I'm on cloud nine.

Sure, I miss Dr Pepper, Big Red gum, jicama, fresh jalapeños, and coffee creamer... but if I left now, I would go crazy missing the humongous avocados that are now a [huge] part of my cuisine.

Here are a few photos of some avocados that my husband brought home from work one day. They were from a tree on a nearby lot. These are the biggest I've seen, yet. I staged them with a few common items for comparison. Sorry for the quality! I still haven't had access to my backed up photos. I grabbed these from my [presently retired] personal blog.

Different angles with a standard measuring tape...

To enlarge pics, right-click and open in a new window.

I know, right!?

I'd wager that these things are so big, that I can list eating them as a legitimate hobby. One thing I haven't seen is an avocado eating contest, but I would love to represent. I'll have to look into that.


  1. Any chance those "Avacados" are sweet, red on the inside, with little black seeds?? ;)

    1. Ha-ha! :-))

      I don't know why Brazil doesn't export them to the U.S. They'd make a mint.

  2. Hmmm...they look exactly like some avocados I've seen marketed here lately as "low-fat avocados."
    I thought to myself, "What kind of sick joke is that?" :D

    1. Although i've heard that avocados have a fat that is supposed to burn our bad fat (when consumed in small amounts), it does sound like marketing trickery to me. :D

      Are the ones that you saw bigger than the Hass?

    2. Oh yes, much. Maybe not QUITE as big as those you've got, but pretty close. They were about three times the size of the average Hass.

    3. Awesome! I will tell my family to look for them. Is there a particular store that they should check?

  3. Gosh, im really going to need to find a bilingual nutrition student or something to do the translating for me on these foods.... even the spices


    1. Good to see you, The-WC! :)

      No worries! There is an awesome book called Word by Word Illustrated Dictionary (English/Portuguese) by Steven J. Molinsky & Bill Bliss that can help.

      However, it is important that you get the 2nd Edition, as it is more concise & detailed. You can find new & used versions on I still plan to get one myself.

      I only had the 1st Edition, and went everywhere with that thing — including the doctor (...and it's not a pocket-sized book). lol That said, i'm sure that if i'd had the second edition, i would have found the basil much earlier. :D

  4. Letícia from Campinas/SPFebruary 19, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    I guess this is not exatcly what you're looking for, but here it is:

  5. Letícia from Campinas/SPFebruary 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    And from another store I know you can find in Goiânia:

  6. Letícia from Campinas/SPFebruary 19, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Another option:

    Who would miss home having murici popsicles and pequi?
    I'm brazilian and I met pequi only when I was 26 years old. I'm still in love with it!

    1. Thanks, Letícia!

      I will be sure to check these out. :)

      I love the blooming flowers of the Pequi. They are gorgeous! So pretty... The fruit, though, is something that I never really adapted to. Ha-ha! I usually opt for palm hearts, instead - pupunha is my favorite. :)

      I've tried Murici, but I tend to like the sweeter fruits like the Caqui & Ata. :) I will really miss them, when I return to the U.S. (Although they can be found in my hometown, they are more expensive & have a shorter "season" of availability there.)

      Thanks for stopping by & for the information! :)


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