Cafezinhos in Brazil
My in-laws talked about Itu with a relieved exhale. Here is rest, their warmed faces say, the gentle upturn of their mouths. Here is family. The cousins’ house in Itu was cool and sprawling.
Brazilian sunshine pours over limbs like honey. Sundays belong in Itu, built for gathering family to eat grilled steak rich with blood, plucked from grill to plate to mouth in minutes, a glass of cachaça stung with fresh mint for every hand.
My mother-in-law was brought here to meet the family when she was in her early 20s, wide-eyed and gorgeous, a Portuguese phrase on her tongue. My husband and I have been together for eight years, got married last year, and it is here, at the table with glasses sweating and heads lolled back in exhaustion, a mishmash of Portuguese and Hungarian zipping between chairs, that I feel properly in the fold.
Ritual is kind. It teaches us how to be when we are without a common language, surrounded by new spouses and new faces. We fall into the rhythm of gentle consumption and connection as we eat feijoada together at a long table in the sunshine. An orange slice on a plate, a spoonful of golden farofa, a shared dreamy expression as the pork fat hits the bloodstream. Black beans in the pot, cooked down to thin-skinned velvet guts, a myriad of meats carefully stewed, the warm spike of pepper, tender greens cut to ribbons and cooked briefly, so they tumble vivid and bright onto the plate.
Between day and night, we kick a half-deflated soccer ball back and forth, and slowly pace the outskirts of the pool, but never get in. A soccer game comes on and half of us disappear into glowing darkness. I take a nap and when I wake up the sun is fading, lingering bleary in the sky.
Caipirinhas make way for cafezinhos, strong Brazilian espressos. We break the crema with slim spoons, letting the night air permeate its tight barrier of foam. Our hostess glides through with a basket of warm, fresh-from-the-oven pão de queijo and buttery Hungarian crescent-shaped cookies twinkling with sugar.
As we drink our coffees on the porch, the stars glimmer across the Itu sky. The day was so rich it was like living two days in one, but the night is young.
We sit outside in the warm quiet and listen to the click and crumble of cookie, happy and sated. Our bellies rest, wobbly with salted pork fat, flesh and butter, our blood spiked with the quick snap of caffeine.