Every place has a certain food that you just can’t seem to get anywhere else. For New Yorkers it’s the bagel. For the French, the croissant. Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) is that food for Brazilians. For years we’ve gotten by on packaged dough balls from the frozen section of our local Brazilian market. But this weekend we found an old recipe from a friend, and realized we had everything we needed to make it from scratch at home.
We were taking a stroll through Rio de Janeiro’s gorgeous botanical gardens, when we ran into two big groups of kids on field trips from schools in the area. My lovely wife (and now, apparently, publicist) struck up a conversation with some of the boys, and let slip what I do for a living, and that I knew how to draw Alex the Lion. Next thing I knew, everyone had their cell phones out to take pictures, and I spent about a half hour talking with the kids, and drawing Alex, Marty, Skipper and other characters. They all were apparently big fans of the Madagascar series. Everyone was super excited. I even got one of the boys to draw something in my sketchbook. He drew a lovely princess.
When you’re in the movie business it’s so easy to get swept up in crtitical reviews and statistics, and obsess over the opportunities you’ve missed where you could have made this scene or that one work just a little better. It can make you pretty grumpy. So it’s pretty nice to get a reality check once in a while, and realize that there are kids, all over the world, who simply love what we do.
On the last day of my trip, I made brunch for a group of wonderful friends of the family. There’s no such thing as “brunch” in Brazil, so I tried to be a good culinary ambassador and introduce the concept in the best possible light. Each item was adapted to the local scene: scrambled eggs with queijo de minas and fresh herbs from the front yard; coconut brioche French toast with a passionfruit-pear compote (and maple syrup straight from New York); and mimosas made with acerola juice. Nothing came out quite as I expected: the bread had a really strange texture, and the compote was more like a soup. But my hosts seemed to enjoy it all, and the mimosas were a definite hit!
I’m in Brazil for a couple of weeks, Visiting family. My favorite thing about Brazil is the abundant fresh fruit, stuff you never hear about in the States. Shown here: figs, passionfruit juice, and atemóia, which is a hybrid between the cherimoya and the pinha. The flavor is sweet and wonderful and hard to describe, somewhere between a pear and a pineapple, and the texture is slightly chewy and fleshy like a lychee nut. I could eat these all day.