I was feeling a bit homesick today. So I decided to go to the store to buy things to make chocolate chip cookies. I realized that I've never tried to make cookies here. Cakes, yes. Pancakes, yes. But cookies, no. I remembered last week when one student was talking about how she had American cookies (Mrs. Field's, I believe) and how they were so soft and amazing and how Brazilian cookies just don't compare, anywhere. And I was like, "You're RIGHT!"
All Brazilian cookies taste like the shitty Wal-Mart versions of Oreos. Dry and small and depressing. Brazilians have other fantastic desserts, like mousse and bombas, and most of the time, their desserts take the cake (pun intended) because they're all the deliciousness of American desserts without all the fat... but their cookies just don't cut it. So I dug out a chocolate chip cookie recipe that my mom gave me and decided to try it out.
That required going to the store on a Sunday night. Sunday night is apparently the worst time ever in the history of the world to go to the store.
Let me point out that I went to the mall to get Alexandre's birthday present first. The mall was worse than the grocery store. The parking lot was packed, and Brazilians don't know how to follow laws in general, especially when it inconveniences them in the stort-term. So people were parking illegally in the handicapped spots and inventing spots in the driving lanes (forcing everyone else to awkwardly reverse out of the suddenly blocked lane... DEAR BRAZIL, WHERE IS YOUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY!?). I don't do well in situations like this. My personality suggests and my genetics support low-level anxiety disorders. I tried to just breathe a lot, park in the first legal place that I could find, and repeat Ghandi's "be the change you wish to see in the world" over and over in my head.
Alexandre never reads my blog, so I can tell you all here, 2 days before his birthday and without worry, that I bought him Converse for his birthday, and the mall is the only place in the city that sells them. It turns out the mall was so crowded because today was the first day of the Christmas --I don't know what to call it. Christmas display? Christmas show? Let's call it Christmas marketing mess -- in the mall. You think Christmas Creep is bad in the US? It's November 8th, and Brazilians have a freaking 30-foot-tall Noah's Ark boat set up in the mall. And Santa's already here (in front of the ark?!), and there are little mechanical animals set up in the fake snow all around the Ark. Everyone came to check it out and take pictures with their own cameras instead of paying the Santa company.
DEAR BRAZIL, GET YOUR OWN HOLIDAY TRADITIONS. IT DOESN'T SNOW IN BRAZIL. SANTA STORIES DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE HERE.
But in case you were feeling pity for the poor Brazilians having American Christmas shoved down their throats, don't worry. All of the "elves" were women (probably a mandatory prerequisite for hiring, worker's rights be damned), and they were all dressed in slutty elf costumes. Ya know, for the kids.
I survived the Christmas Marketing Mess Masses and found the shoe store, bought the shoes without any hiccups, and decided to buy myself a milkshake at the delicious milkshake stand on my way out. But then this caipira family cut in front of me in line and the mother was telling her 12-year-old to get the cashier's attention before they even knew what they wanted, so as the tween was yelling "Moça! Moça!" (like "lady! hey lady!") the mother was arguing with her sister and the other 4 kids between them about which ice creams they wanted and how the kids had to get one that was less than 2.50 (or should I say 2,50), and then I decided that I didn't need a milkshake that bad.
After the chaos of the mall, I went to the grocery store. I tried going to the little local grocery store, but it closes on the weekends (along with half of the city, so I guess that makes it okay). Come on. I try to support The Little Guy, but they wonder why they have no business when they're not open on the most important supermarket days. I had to go to Wal-Mart. The lines were absolutely insane. It was the first and last time I'll go grocery shopping on a Sunday night here. I just wish the owner of The Little Guy grocery store would stop by there on a Sunday night to see how much business he's missing out on.
Remember that I went to the store for the cookie stuff, right? Well, chocolate chips were not to be found. Nothing even has chocolate chips in them, I realized. I didn't know how to say "chocolate chips" in Portuguese, so I was looking for something that had chocolate chips as an ingredient so I could show an employee. I eventually found some American cereal bars, and took them to an employee. I pointed to the picture on the box and I was like "do you sell these chocolate pieces? You know, just the pieces? For cooking?" and he looked at me like I was crazy and said no. Then I asked him for "sodio bicarbonato" (baking soda), to which he also said no.
DEAR BRAZIL, THIS IS WHY YOUR COOKIES SUCK.
I wandered around some more, chateada, racking my brain for resourcefulness. I passed by Wal-Mart's own Christmas Creep section, saw Hershey's Kisses, and the lightbulb turned on. (Hello! Hershey's Kisses cookies!) So I got a bag of those, and also a chocolate bar, which I decided to break up into tiny pieces (get it? like chips).
Then I waited in line for 30 minutes. Literally. I should have left. Having wandered around the store was a sunk cost. But Alexandre was at plantão, and I had nothing better to do. My line at the cashier was so long that it wandered into the alcohol aisle, so I added a couple of pinga wine coolers to the cart (hence this blog entry).
I came home, drank the pinga wine coolers (pinga coolers?) and made the cookies and listened to Joanna Newsom and Mariee Sioux and Alela Diane. The cookies are all right. They don't have baking soda, which Patty says is important. And the only brown sugar I could find was this healthy imported organic stuff (DEAR BRAZIL, BROWN SUGAR IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HEALTHY). But Alex will love them because he doesn't know any different. And I survived SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY! of shopping. Everybody wins!
(PS: Does anyone reading this know a Portuguese equivalent of the English expression "Everybody wins!"? I always say "todo o mundo ganha!" and no one understands me.)