Back to America's culinary variety
US comfort foods are appealing after nearly a decade of living in Brazil.
After living in Rio de Janeiro for nearly a decade, this year I decided to return to the United States. It was a tough decision to leave the warm climate, beautiful Copacabana beach, the music, the people – so tough, in fact, that I had to sit down and make a list of all the reasons why I really should go back to New York.Skip to next paragraph
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Surprise, surprise: I finished my list and discovered that almost every reason I'd written, besides the obvious and overriding fact that I missed my family, was – food!
So, what's wrong with Brazilian food? Nothing, really. I hadn't even realized how much I'd missed the food in the US until I sat down to make that list.
There were certain things I'd missed all along, of course, but I had ways of getting around them.
For one thing, I made sure that whoever came to visit me would bring a big jar of peanut butter. (Peanut butter is rare in Rio, and it's usually unappetizingly loaded with sugar.)
That seemed to satisfy me for the most part. That is, until I decided to go home.
Then it was as if all my repressed desires for what I used to eat at home in New York just bubbled up like Old Faithful.
What I really missed was the vast variety of international foods in Manhattan. I longed to savor some crunchy, lemony pad Thai noodles, or to wrap up some spicy lentils in soft, spongy Ethiopian injera bread, or to scarf down some spicy Korean kimchi.
I particularly missed the old standby – Chinese food. Rio has Chinese restaurants, but comida chinesa is a pale imitation of the New York variety, probably because the cooks in Rio's Chinese restaurants have names like João and Gustavo instead of Zhang and Wei.
Not to mention the fact that Chinese and Japanese food are often confused. One of the specialties you can order from the Rio Chinese takeout chain, China in Box, for instance, is yakisoba (Japanese, right?), a mess of overcooked noodles and unidentified vegetables with a few hunks of chicken or beef.
But it wasn't just types of cuisine I missed. It was the silly stuff like Mallomars and Pop-Tarts (OK, OK, I know, just bear with me here) and even York peppermint patties. (For some reason, Brazilians just don't associate mint and chocolate as a happy combo for a candy bar.)