Today was the Festa do Milho-- The Corn Festival!!
It was SO great.
It was in one of the small towns relatively close by physically, but half a world away culturally. We had to pass through the town to get to the fairgrounds, and it consisted of little more than tiny, simple houses, 2 big churches, and a pharmaceutical factory that probably employs most of the residents. Most of the city folk were seated on lawn chairs in front of their houses, drinking beer and watching "os movimentos" (the goings-on), as Alexandre mocked. As we turned a corner looking for the main road that led to the fairgrounds, a little boy came running around the corner in his underwear, carrying a chicken upside-down by its leg.
Like I said, half a world away.
We were surprised at the size and popularity of the corn festival-- we had to wait in a line of cars for about 20 minutes before we could get into the parking area. I tried to get some pictures along the way of the houses that lined the road and a father and son riding horseback against traffic:
The parking lot doubled as a rubber tree farm (or should I say the farm doubled as a parking lot?), so I saw where tires come from, up close:
A small slit is cut in the tree trunk to release the rubber in its pure form, and then it drips into the bucket attached to the tree. Neat!
Once inside, we had to pay for food tickets in advance that we could use at the various booths. This system proved very safe and efficient for booth employees! 1-real tickets were orange, and 2-real tickets were green, and, probably since it was a church fundraiser for a rehab center, every booth selling a given item had to charge the same price for that item.
And then... on to the food!
We started off with traditional corn-on-the-cob ("milho assado" in Portuguese), prepared by the church friars:
They brilliantly gave us a piece of corn husk with our purchase so as to facilitate butter and salt application. Genius! Alexandre demonstrates:
And I got enjoy the fruits (or in this case, vegetables) of his labor:
We then moved on to other delicious snacks. I'd eaten some of the corn concoctions before, like coxinhas (except these ones had corn-based dough), "escondidinho" (cornmeal with dried meat) and the pamonha (pictured below), but they were particularly delicious at the festival. Some new things for me were the corn juice (It sounds like it would be strange, but it was SO tasty!!) and a sort of corn stew with couscous and chicken.
Here's the corn juice and the pamonha (which is kind of like a sweet tamale):
And here's the corn, couscous, and chicken stew:
We finished off our meal with corn-based churros (prounced "shuhous" in Portuguese... I don't know how to make a the sh- fricative symbol on my comp) deliciously injected with doce de leite:
Unlike our small-town-folk experience in Barretos, people at the festa do milho were generally friendly and respectful, and we (and by we, I mean Alexandre, the native speaker) joked with someone about something in almost every line we waited in. All in all, it was a yummy and adventurous day.