Tag Archives: Parties!

It’s cookie time!

Cookie Party: USA Edition Season 14 (2014).
Well, at least Olafs excited
Well, Olaf’s excited at least

What started as a benign holiday tradition involving a few high school girl friends has now turned into more of a deranged personal obsession. For every one of the past 15 years, with the exception of the fall I lived in Spain, I’ve hosted a “Christmas” cookie making and decorating party—pretty much anything you (or a perverse college kid) can think of, I’ve seen it in cookie form. The tradition might have died peacefully in my freshman college dorm room that first December away from home, but I had already realized that in college, there are two simple means through which to make new friends: alcohol or food. Much to my grandmother’s confusion (“but what do you do at parties?”), I chose the latter.

And so it was one chilly Chicago day, that I found myself hurrying down a smoke-filled stairwell with a few hundred of my suddenly not-so-biggest fans. Whose idea was it anyway to put thick odor-blocking double doors between the kitchen where I was throwing cookies in the oven and the suite where people were decorating them? Later college cookie parties were more successful, which is to say, I don’t remember setting off any more fire alarms. After I graduated, it was only logical to bring the cookie-making to my new math teaching job at a boarding school, especially in my official capacity as faculty advisor to the new “cultural cuisine club” (college counseling took issue with “baking club” as an extracurricular activity). Now, five years of 30+ person, grad school cookie parties later, I knew that, even if my friends would just  be humoring the crazy gringa, the tradition had to be brought to Sao Paulo.

This proved to be a little more difficult than I had anticipated. Thanks to a little help from
the internet, the challenge was not in the sugar or gingerbread dough itself; the only slightly unusual ingredients required were molasses and cloves, and I found molasses at Pão de Açucar and skipped the cloves because, well, I forgot to look for them. Powdered sugar is readily available, and it wasn’t difficult to find decorative sugars or sprinkles. Although sprinkles are sold at Pão de Açucar and bigger grocery stores, I bought them at a party store on Rua Augusta because it had lured me in with its muffin and bread pans. Sadly, I was rudely awakened from my double chocolate banana bread reverie by the realization that I would have exactly 3 days left in Sao Paulo to enjoy my new bread pans (next time, I’m bringing my own!) so I bought some pretty colored sugars as a consolation purchase.

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Two left feet

Above: non-traditional Jabuticaba Caipirinha. Below: an international blur representing Spain, Brazil, USA, France, Russia and Germany.

Despite the popularity of samba and the “balada” here, I’ve only been out on the town a handful of times. My first few were laid back weekend afternoons at the boteco with Bruna or Tammy and some of their friends. This usually involves sharing a giant Coors-lite like beer from a bucket of ice in the middle of the table along with some fried appetizers. Although I love the camaraderie, this approach is particularly dangerous when there is no free tap water and the waiter is constantly refilling your glass from a seemingly endless supply of communal beers he is bringing to the table. Add to this the fact that you’re a gringa and everyone wants you to try a Caipirinha—Brazil’s national drink for stupid tourists—and you’re toast.

I have also had the pleasure of crashing several of Maisa and Bruna’s girls’ nights. Although they certainly don’t happen every week, “the girls” told me Brazilians will use anything as an excuse to celebrate. When a particularly rambunctious one happened to fall on my dad’s birthday, they assured me that they were most certainly celebrating him. I’m a bit skeptical, but I won’t begrudge an evening to drink wine and eat biscoito de polvilho and some of Bruna’s excellent cooking.

My experiences are few and I’m no alcohol expert, but in general, it seems that beer is the drink of choice at bars here, and there is really only a choice of two different companies, Brahma or Skol (and they are actually both owned by the same company). I’m told that microbrews do exist somewhere in Sampa, but most people are happy to partake in something relatively cheap and light that can be drunk in massive quantities. A friend told me that when they went to the US they were shocked by how little beer they could drink because it’s so heavy and hoppy. For my part, I was shocked to find that Tammy’s Guinness look-alike Brahma Black was actually extremely sweet and cream-based. Hops do not seem to have reached Brazil, and I am totally fine with that. What saddens me more is that I have yet to drink wine outside of the house. It is extremely expensive, and Brazilian wine is not considered to be very good. I think Maisa and Bruna usually bring back an Argentinian wine for upwards of R$25 instead.

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