You may remember last year when I met Alexandre's grandmother for the first time. She wasn't keen on the idea of me (as my British grandmother would say), but slowly, over the last year, she's been warming up to me. I usually see her at Sunday lunches when we visit Alexandre's parents. When Alexandre goes to his parents' house alone (like if I have to work or something), he always makes a point to visit her.
Let me note here that The Grandmother is the sole living possessor of the family's perfect coxinha recipe. Her mother devised and perfected it, and taught it to her 3 daughters (one of whom is The Grandmother). The other 2 daughters have since passed on, leaving the information with only Vovó (that's what Alexandre calls his grandmother).
this, and you're missing out. The Wikipedia page puts too much focus on the fact that it used to have a whole chicken thigh in it, a tradition which survives only in the name and is kind of irrelevant today. It's just a little fried dough ball with chicken and cheese inside (sometimes it has ground beef or weird vegetable combination, but I'm partial to the original).
After trying and falling in love with The Grandmother's coxinhas, I asked her for the recipe. I thought it would be a good bonding thing for us, because grandmothers love to cook and teach people how to cook, right? I'm usually good with grandmothers (Hi, Nanny!), but this one has been hard to crack. The first time I asked her to teach me, she said no. The second time I asked her to teach me, she said no.
When we saw her again in October, she tried to slip us some money, as grandmothers are wont to do. But her living situation is modest at best. We went back and forth with us denying the money and her insisting. Then I had an idea.
"You know, instead of money, maybe you could teach us how to make the coxinhas! Alexandre and I would love to learn." (I made sure to mention Alexandre too, making a sort of genetic appeal.)
She squinted at me, and was quiet while she pondered the idea. Alexandre made some comments to support it.
"... Ok. Call me the next time you come to visit. Perhaps you can come to my house and I can show you."
Obviously, we took her up on the offer. The day after our wonderful trip to Sao Paulo, Alexandre called his grandmother to see if we could come over. She accepted the idea, so in the afternoon, Alexandre, his father, and I piled in the car and drove to her house.
When we got there, she gave me a little tour of the house. She made a point to show me the guest room, and to say "I have this for any time grandchildren want to visit!" And then we got down to business: coxinha business.
Alexandre was helping in the beginning, but then his father called him in to the other room to show him an article on ophthalmology in the newspaper, and ended up staying in there for a while to talk about it. That left me and The Grandmother alone for the whole of the cooking lesson. Her Portuguese is relatively easy to understand, because, since she's so old, she didn't even adopt some of the changes that separated Portuguese and Spanish. So she still rolls her [r]s instead of making the [h] sound (so "roupa" (clothes) is pronounced "rrrropa," just like Spanish). She doesn't do the spirantization thing, so "tirar" is just that ti-rarrrr, and not "chi-rar." For anyone learning Portuguese that already speaks Spanish, these small changes are what make or break your difference in understanding. Lesson learned: talk to more old people.
Anyway, I got her to tell me about her sisters, and told her about mine. She complimented me on being a clean cook (hooray! The CA food safety card test paid off!), and complained that Alexandre is the only grandkid that visits her (she actually said "my other grandchildren abandoned me!"). She did give credit to one other grandson (Alexandre's cousin) who makes a point to call her, though.
Alexandre came back in to check on us periodically. At one point, The Grandmother went to the next room where they were sitting and said, "She is nice. I like her. Soon, she'll make the coxinhas better than I do!" I was literally 5 feet away, so I just pretended not to hear.
So yes. I now know the ultimate coxinha recipe (and I have a big bag of ready-to-fry coxinhas in my freezer to boot!). And I think maybe, just maybe, I taught The Grandmother something too: that it's okay to share and be a little open with me (maybe she just didn't know what to do, since her 2 granddaughters aren't exactly close to her). I'm still deciding if I'm going to put the recipe on the blog... it took me a lot of ass-kissing and biting of my tongue to get it. But I also believe that knowledge should be free and shared so... you'll probably get it tomorrow. Or... you could come visit me, and I could show you....