I used to think Americana was just an album from The Offspring. It’s also a humble little city, smaller than my own, but home to some very kind people who have raised some of the amazing people I know.
Luisa and I took a bus from Sao Paulo to her home town of Americana for the weekend. Actually what we did was catch a bus from Rodoviario Tiete to a city called Campinas where her parents picked us up.
Her parents were both extremely excited and welcoming. They looked like very warm and friendly people which was no surprise after knowing Luisa. Her father, Eny, was a tall, distinguished and strong looking man with grey hair. I don’t think I ever saw him without a collared shirt and a single tone sweater. His look was quite formal, but his demeanour was far more relaxed. He always seemed like he couldn’t be happier about where he was in life as long as the three lovely ladies in his life were happy.
Her mother, Lala as we called her, was shorter, but held just as much presence with her bright eyes, bubbly personality and a broad youthful grin which she wore proudly. Her father spoke about as much English as I spoke Portuguese and it didn’t really matter what language her mother spoke because she said it all with her expressions and actions.
After running a few errands it was necessary to stop for coffee. As I soon found, it is always necessary to stop for coffee with Eny. First we had European espressos with pão de queijo (because Eny knew it was my favourite) and before I’d even finished Eny was chatting with the staff to order a Brazilian filtered coffee. I normally don’t go for filtered coffee because I think it strains out the nice oils or something, but the roasted beans smelt amazing and the coffee didn’t disappoint either!
Afterwards, I got a bit of an insight into Marilia’s life as a lawyer. She probably would have preferred to show me the more glamorous side of things, but I didn’t care, it was fun just trying to guess what was going on while everyone spoke Portuguese.
We stopped for sushi by the kilo. By the kilo?! I didn’t even know that was a thing, but hey, if you want to charge the same price per kilo for a salmon steak as you do a vegetarian sushi roll which do you think I’m going to choose?
After lunch I marvelled at Luisa’s beautiful family home and met their other furry children. It was a little piece of paradise in the sun. The sort of home you dream about owning. I’m going to build something like that one day even if I have to do it with my bare hands.
Eny knew how much I enjoyed Paulistan pizza so it was time to show off the very best pizza of Americana at dinner time. The thin crust and cheeses were amazing and then came an array of desserts. There was this really unique one referred to like “chalk and cheese”. Two very different and unexpected things, guava and Brazilian cheese, came together to form a tasty combo.
The next day started with breakfast and no less than two shots of espresso. Eny wanted to show me around town and get me to try as many unique Brazilian foods as he could. While we were in Sao Paulo he bought me a kilo of cashews just because I was surprised by the fruit. I wasn’t sure how to tell him we had cashews in Australia and Asia too, but how could I anyway! Eu falo quase nada de português!
The first stop was his office where he cared for a stray dog. In fact, Lala used to care for a stray dog too. You know a person has a good heart when they are willing to go out of their way for animals. So every day and every night, Eny came back to his office to feed the dog and let him get some exercise. A Nespresso was in order and so by 9.30am we’d already downed three shots. I wondered whether the day would continue that way.
We shared the coffee with Candido which I thought just meant one of his colleagues, but it later turned out to be his name haha. After that we stopped by some markets and supermarkets where it seemed everybody knew Eny and he knew everyone by name too. It reminded me of my grandad who used to stop and talk to everyone in his hometown of Foster back in the far southeast of Australia.
At one of the markets there were loads of spices. I looked at all the packages and tried to learn all the Portuguese words for them. You’d never believe how long it took me to figure out that gengibre was ginger. We also shared some common Brazilian snacks at a pasteleira. A pastel pouch filled with melted cheese and a teardrop shaped piece of deep fried cheesy chicken with I think potato (not this exact one but it’s the same).
We also bought a football sized avocado and this fruit called fruta de conde which in English is fruit of the count or perhaps just a custard apple. There is more seed than fruit in this thing which a few people have likened to a turtle shell.
Surprisingly, Eny and I talked quite a bit throughout the morning with a combination of English, Portuguese, charades and good old Google Translate. On one hand it’s nice to think that words aren’t everything and also it was cool to see my Portuguese improving rapidamente (it helps when you can cheat using French words).
A couple of family relatives came over for easily the best homecooked meal of the trip. I guess there was a fairly Italian feel to the meal and the prawns in the cheesy orange sauce were to die for. They probably didn’t do your arteries much good, but hey, good food, good friends, good wine, good times.
I may have broken hearts initially for not sharing some dessert I made after lunch, but thankfully everyone took a siesta instead and awoke to a bit of a surprise! Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a simple night, yet one of the most memorable nights of my life. I wish I had a photo to capture it, but hey, those are the true memories and it’s not like I’ll forget it anyway.
On Sunday we went out for another lunch with friends where I was labeled “iceman” for ignoring the Brazilian winter. I think I much preferred the nickname Xaxa given to me the night before. It was chilly in the shade, but that same morning I was sunbaking and sweating by the pool. Go figure!
In the afternoon I went for a run to the botanical gardens. I think my feet are finally hardening up to barefoot running, but my calves still got punished by just 7kms of pavement. The boulevard on the way there seemed to be a popular spot for joggers and thankfully was mostly glass free. Maybe I should buy some runners at some point…
The only way I could think of repaying Luisa’s family for their hospitality was to do some portraits for them in their stunning family home. I think it would have been cool to do a badass portrait of Eny sitting on his couch smoking a cigarette or a cigar amongst a smokey haze, but apparently smoking isn’t allowed the house! Maybe another time.
Hopefully they like the photos I sent them. Either way though, I think I will need to redraw on my home loan to have the kind of money required to show them a similar time in Australia one day, but I’m looking forward to it! In fact, the same goes for all my Brazilian friends.