Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dining out in Brazil

My last night in Brazil I wanted to do something. Anything. I decided that the thing to do would be to go out to a local restaurant. And being that I am in Brazil, what kind of local restaurant would one want to go to?

I realized that on my first or second day I had seen a Brazilian buffet restaurant. I had gone to such a Brazilian barbecue restaurant in Korea once, but being in Brazil, it really did seem like the thing to do would be to go to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant in actual Brazil. Having just woke up from a nap and being super hungry this all seemed like a really great idea. Google maps confirmed that there was in fact  a churrascaria just across the street from my hotel, requiring just a hop across a small inner city river.

I got dressed and went across the street.

Found a seat and explained that I wanted the buffet.

Stupidly went to the actual buffet and got things like shrimp and salad and vegetables. Later, I would thoroughly regret having got any of these things as they were entirely unnecessary. I went back to my table and tried to understand exactly how things worked. And this is what I could tell.

From my table I observed.

Various men, in very formal dress, pushed a variety of carts around the restaurant. On the cards were various forms of meat, and drinks, and sides, and also dessert. They men would go around to various tables and then would slice off bits of meat for people sitting the table.

I watched for a bit until I was sure I had it down. Then, when next I saw a meat cart heading my way, with what I was fairly sure was chicken, I sort of waved.

Waving was a bad idea.

For what I didn't know, when sitting down at a Brazilian meat buffet that is basically a wandering circus of meat is the following.

Prepare for mortal combat.


It was me against the meat and after waving down some chicken after fifteen seconds I had different waiters with different carts of meat coming up and hovering over me. It was a fucking meat swarm and I was in the center of it. There was meat I recognized and meat I didn't recognize  and meat that I was vaguely curious about, but mostly I was turning away the meat. Meat, did not stop coming.  I was getting more attention than any other table in the restaurant (and there were a lot of tables) so either I had a) made a really bad move by waving b) was a very attractive single female in a buffet or c) these guys got paid to offload meat. There is also possibly the d) all of the above.

They kept coming with the meat and I kept saying no unless it was chicken or fish of some kind, since I don't eat beef or pork.

Eventually one of the waiters came over to me very concerned. With my impossible Portuguese I expressed I could understand a little Spanish.

"No gusta?"

"No, gusta!"

How do I explain.

"Carne, no gusta?"

"Carne, gusta...pollo gusta...y..."

I'm struggling. I want to explain that I like lamb. I'd be happy to eat some lamb, I just don't eat beef or pork.

Somehow I managed to convey "bistec y swine no gusta."

He figured that out.

"pero..."

How to say this. I want to try to tell him. "I like lamb."

"Pero gusta..."

"Si?"

I don't know what to say. I look at the meat going around.

"Bistec." I point at the steak.

"Si, gusta bistec?"

"No."

"Swine."

"Si, gusta swine?"

"No." The pointing game is getting me so far.

I keep watching but I don't see anything going around that could be lamb. I don't know what to say.

And then...

Suddenly.

I look at the waiter. He looks at me expectantly.

I open my mouth.

"BAAAAAAAAAAAA."

"BAAAAAAAAAAA?"

"Si, gusto BAAAAAAAAA!"

"BAAAAAAAAAAA!" He says and smiles excitedly.

I nod my head "BAAAAAAAAAAA!" I say back excitedly.

The tables around me turn and look as if I have lost my mind.

"BAAAAAAAAAAAA!" says again and claps my  back and walks away.

The older man with the younger female prostitute gives me a dirty look for clearly upsetting his dinner. The family next to me smiles and waves. A minute later the waiter returns with a colleuege in tow who has a cart.

He points at the cart "BAAAAAAAAAAAA."

"BAAAAAAAAAAA?" I ask.

"Si, BAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

And as he finishes the waiter with the cart slices off a full plate of lamb and successfully, the waiters fade into the night. For the next what feels like hours I have nothing but chicken and lamb swinging by until I'm pretty sure I cannot stand.

I said no to the dessert cart and yes to the drink cart.

I smiled as I paid and walked out the restaurant.

My waiter, my new friend runs up as a leave,

He smiles, he waves as me as I walk out the door "BAAAAAAAAAAA!" I hear as I walk away.

I turn.

I smile.

I answer.

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