Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rio Vermelho-Red River

Thursday July 31arrived and we tried to understand what we should tackle next. The last few days had been great sunny beach days and we had been on the go. Michele suggested that we hit the beach, maybe one north of town. Our beach at Porto do Baha and manyof the northern beaches had been the haunts of the music stars of the Tropicalia movement in their late teens and 20's. Several songs had been written beachside or dedicated to the good times had at those then secret beach fronts. Anna called and asked if we were free that evening to go to Rio Vermelho for Caipirnhas and Acaraje do Dinha (in her mind, the best in town). We agreed to be ready around 9:00 to be picked up. Paulo was working late that evening and would try to meet us there, later on. Ana again was full of pep and giggles. We drove out along the coast under a moonless sky, with a soundtrack of crashing surf. The sunsets early close to the equator, at least in their winter. When I have seen the moon it is quite low in the sky, and the stars seem quite distant, more so than in our hemisphere. The roadside bar offered an oceanview and was nestled in a fork in two avenues near a recently renovated historic district. Rio Vermelho sounded like a core community for a key part of the black community, including both politically focused and Orisha based folks. The annual festa de Iemenja takes place there and attracts tensof thousands of participants.
Paulo was there with a few friends when we arrived. He said he left early, to insure that we could hangout. Our bar, was open 24 hours offering a few light snacks, beers, caipirinhas and a limited variety of mixed drinks. On the seaside was the red barraca of mae Dinha and her cohorts. We got both Acaraje and Abarra, (both are a fist sized black eye pea snacks, the former being prepared similar to falafel, fried in palm oil, and split in half along the middle. They are then stuffed with quiabo/stewed okra, smoked stewed shrimp, aipim, hot sauce and onions. The Abarra are sesoned with onion, garlic and palm oil. They are then steamed in banana leaves for a moiste texture. Ana's husband, a local surgeon who worked between Salavdor and a rural township walked up out of the darkness. A large ruddy man with a wide smile. Shortly thereafter, someone walked up with queijo quemado, a hearty cheese rectangle on a wooden skewer. They held a small metal pot full of red hot coals in their other hand. If you bought a stick, they set it in the coals until it blistered and blackened. It was served on a plate with crushed oregano on one side and a puddle of honey on the other. You decide whether you like it savory or sweet. We ordered some cheese sticks and chomped them down quickly. Next came someone with roasted cashews. He was followed by a peanut vendor. The amendoine or peanut sellers offered two different styles of Spanish style peanuts. Either roasted and salted and served wrapped in paper. The more common style was salty boiled peanuts. Less salty and more firm than what I have enjoyed in the south. Either way was quite delicious with the peanuts being freshly harvested. In another corner there was a pipoca or popcorn wagon with both regular and caramel varieties of freshly popped local corn. A Carbo loader's heaven. Of course every so often someone stopped by with beaded jewelry and cocoshell necklaces. The environment offered its own sense of theatre. We stayed for several hours, laughing, drinking talking about art and careers. It was decided that Ana's friend should drive her car home, her husband would drive her home and Paulo would take us. Everywhere we went we saw the Guarda Civil, and our friends clued us in to the strictness of driving laws and general conduct in public. It turned out as we drove home that there was a random checkpoint, and even though Paulo had been careful in his drinking, he turned off the main thoroughfare to avoid any conflict. We made it home without incident and crashed.

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