Saturday, October 18, 2008

Big’s new crew: Jorge, Antonio, Elena e Maria da Peina

Wrasslin’ several times with SENAC over a minor refund for the cancelled class, Doces Regionais, I finally resolved the issue and received my $57 from the director of admissions. Order got in the way of Progress forward toward my goal. I decided to stop by Big’s store on my way to Dr. Matoches for some needling. I had not seen Big (pronounced Biggie) in weeks. He was happy to see me.

We talked briefly of our respective exploits. Just then a man walking by took a cell call and sat on the bench in front of the store. Big pointed him out, saying there is an important man you should meet. He works with theatre. Please wait, we must speak with him. Two minutes became ten and I was anxious to move on, as always. Eneida had one extra ticket to the memorial for Zeno’s mom scheduled for two PM at Castro Alves. If the links came together I could meet her. I was doubtful.

I stepped outside. I think Big sensed my anxiousness. He tapped the gentleman on the shoulder. I thought, “Oh, great-this guy is really going to want to meet me….” Jorge Bandeira appeared to be a theatrical impressario and bon vivant. Affable and keen eyed he hugged me right away, his salt peppery hair and bristley mustache scratched against my cheek. Quick to decide who I should meet and foods I needed to try, he began to tell me his version of favorite local foods.

In an instant two other men had come up beside us. One, nattily dressed was obviously a dear friend, Antonio Luis. He identified himself as the Ogan of Casa Branca. He completed Jorge’s sentences adding historical perspectives and ruminating over various remembered tastes and memorable meals. We stood in the street for more than a half hour. I was beginning to swim in the glut of information.

The third man, darker not appearing to be of Portugese descent like the others, motioned to his watch. The decision was made to take me to the Museo dos Instrumentos. Emiliana,the Directora could help me find my way. Jorge included an invitation to his house for Feijoada, Sunday for brunch. We passed contact info and he deposited me at the small museum. I never fully caught her name, but the directo informed me that she could burn water.

She called out to a woman passing her doorway, “Voce está indo a sua casa?” Are you headed home? Sim, came the response. This is how I met Maria da Peina, a smart looking woman with enough years com santo to be a Mae, she told me. But she did not want to adopt that role. We talked briefly until we arrived in Elena her sister in law’s living room. TV blaring bad daytime drek, two chubby fellas shirtless pacing back and forth, through and doorway, I saw a woman cleaning and smelled something cooking.

For a moment I thought that I was in the back half of Alaide’s restaurant. Alaide had been the chef I had wanted to interview for the Mosaico TV spot. Elena came through the opening between the rooms, inquisitive about this man Maria had brought in. One of the men motioned for me to sit at the formal dining table, the chairs were still covered in their storeskin of plastic. Elena’s face was totemic and fleshy. She looked to be nearly six feet tall and quite ample. Large inviting eyes and an equally warm smile greeted me as she sat down across from me.

In no time she began rattling off recipes in the same fashion as Mae Analia had done. No proportions, little procedural data, but it would yield good dishes. Plate after plate was deconstructed for me. Of course my mini tape recorder batteries were dead. I could not begin to write at the pace she spoke at. I resorted to listening and shooting some headshots. When I asked a few questions about temperos and correspondences with Candomble meals, she called Maria in from the curb. She had been watching something in the street. Now it was her turn to share her litany, just as dense and quickly.

After 30 minutes, I thanked them and asked if I could return another day. They cheerfully agreed, that I was always welcome. Maria invited me to a local Terreiro up the street for Monday’s ceremony. By the time I left, I knew that the Castro Alves concept was dead in the water. But, once again, I had had a precious moment here in town. Someone has my number, and my turn keeps coming up.

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