Monday, September 8, 2008

Reduced to Light and Sweet

Today, 8-Septembro, began the second week of my first series of formal culinary classes at Senac in "Comida Tipica Baianao"। For a moment, I almost did not continue for the second session. Not because I have not been enjoying it, but just to have more time in my budget. The class is in the heart of the Pelourinho (Pillory in English). It is at the site of the former Slave whipping post. The school is housed in three restored buildings, including a good snapshot museum of the Afro Brazilian Culinary Culture and the effects of the Portuguese Colonial Agricultural System, an amphitheatre, auditorium and a restaurant/bar offering reasonably priced classic foods of Bahia. During each class we see and can help prepare three to four classic provincial dishes. Of course at 11:40, we get to eat all the food that was made, and it does make a perfect lunch.

The issues are that the class runs from eight AM to noon, Tuesday through Friday। That requires me to wake up around 5:15 on the island, and be picked up by my favorite Moto-Tax driver, Davis, (pronounced Gay-vees) at 6:30 AM to make the 7:00 o'clock ferry at Mar Grande headed for Salvador. Seven reals for the motorcycle ride, and three for the Lancha boat. If we are lucky and the seas are not too rough we generally make it to dock in about 38 minutes; or just enough time for a second cup of coffee and some street snax....a piece of fruit or two, Banana Real, Pound Cake, Chicken Snacks, etc. I eat my snack on the gondola ride up to Cidade Encima, and walk through the Praca to the Pelourinho and Senac. Bottom line, by the time I get to class, I am ready for a nap.

So, here's the kicker। Every classroom is smartly equipped with a candy stove type commercial gas burner, a two burner induction cook top, two compartment commercial sink, Refrig and Freezer, Microwave, Filtered Water dispenser, Pitched Mirror to view the activity and a thermos of Freshly Brewed Coffee. If, I-F I am lucky its just sugared black coffee. That happened once. Generally, its light and sweet. Now, those of you who know me know that on ocassion I will put cream in my coffee. Generally, only if I am sharing a cup with someone who takes cream, if my stomach is upset, or if the coffee is atrocious. With the first scenario we usually negotiate a few sips of black coffee before adulteration. But, there is never discussion of a sweetener. I cannot understand Light and Sweet. It isn't coffee, its candy. None of the rich tones, no slightly bitter and toasty notes. Just something that should be poured over cereal. Ugh. And, though this is a coffee culture, and I can find coffee anywhere, about 95% of the coffee on the street, and in cafes is brewed and sweetened. Thus, I have found my cafe near the gondola, who makes black coffee, and it is still not enough to get me through. Life is so rough, right?

How about another direction? So, again for those who really know me, y'all know that this body should never, ever be driving a two wheeled motorized vehicle. No Way. Mopeds included. So, my vicarious thrill now, is to get picked up and driven by these Moto-Taxi motorcycle services. I guess the trip is about 10-12 miles to the Lancha. Two thirds of which is countryside highway. I get through my commute, looking forward to my cycle ride, the Palms and Banana trees, the ocassional horse or man taking his caged bird for a morning stroll, the bay views and fresh air. Subway got nuttin, on it. I might consider Staten Island just to keep riding a ferry everyday. Of course, I have my spots there too.
Unfortunately, last week the sea was quite turbid and of course I was reading as the boat heaved and pitched। Suffice to say I close enough to have been able to have put my tongue in the mouth of the man whose lap I landed on after being thrown across the aisle by the lurching boat. At least we laughed about it. The next day, one of the twins across from me, puked on the floor at my feet. If I ride with the crowd, I like to be in the fully covered cabin near the gangplank to get off when we come to port. I often use that time to snap some candids of fellow passengers or the changing landscape and water views.

But, given my choice, I ride in the bow near the anchor and the landing ropes। My companions are usually itinerant fisherman who have a bucket full of fresh caught octopus or shrimp, some older man ferrying furniture across the bay, or the salty older men and burly young studs. In the morning I watch the sun rise above the city as we come into Salvador, and am able to be one of the first two to three people on the dock. On the way back to Itaparica, if it is not too late, I can take off my shirt and catch some rays. At either end and onboard, someone is selling, beer, freshly toasted cashews/peanuts, corn porridge in the morning, sweet crispy cocadas, filled empadas or sorvetes for a few reals. Its a no-brainer. Even if it rains, it doesn't usually last but for a five minutes or so.

In the afternoon, the trip between the class and the boat traverses plenty of options for supplies, shopping or photo opts. If I am not in a rush, if I am traveling with another fellow, or I don't have the seven reals for the Moto-Tax, I will take the Kombi. Let me say, it has taken over an hour on the Kombi, in the worst case. It is the ultimate local train. It stops where you never expected a stop could be. They will go way out of their way to make a stop, and gain a few extra bucks. But for the $2.30, (probably $1.49), I shouldnt complain. They always have great local color for people watching. Occassionally, it will be a twenty minute ride, slightly longer than the cycle ride. But, you can never tell.

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