Porto Alegre, Brazil: Christmas=Carnival Turkey!!!
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Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire...
Hold on just one minute! There are no chestnuts roasting at this time of year and there are definitely NO open fires burning in this intense heat! This hub is about Christmas Brazil Style.
The holidays are meant to be full of good cheer, but for many it is a time of stress. All the shopping, gift wrapping, cooking, and cleaning can be really tiring. Oh, and let us not forget the joys of being around family- it is enough to drive many of us crazy (or at the very least steer us towards the heavily spiked eggnog).
The year was 2008 and I traveled to meet my husband's family in Porto Alegre for the first time. We arrived in late November in order to spend the holiday season with them. As Christmas Eve approached, my mother-in-law announced that we would be having dinner at her sister's home. Since I love to cook, I offered to make the turkey. My mother-in-law would not hear of it and she insisted we order one instead (a common thing to do in Porto Alegre).
Christmas Eve day was a scorcher! Blazing sunshine and heat- two things that are very foreign to someone who was raised in the Northern Hemisphere. As night approached and the weather cooled, hunger set in. The turkey my mother-in-law had ordered looked great as she placed it on the table. The women were busily moving around the big kitchen preparing side dishes, so I offered to help.
My husband's aunt said, "Of course you can help!"
She proceeded to grab things off the counter and then came towards me. As she placed several cans of fruit on the table, I wondered if she wanted me to make a fruit salad. I also thought that with all the amazing fresh fruit that Brazil had to offer, using canned fruit in heavy syrup would be a terrible waste.
She then reached into a cabinet, pulled out a metallic bag of fried potato sticks and handed it to me. "Here- why don't you decorate the turkey?" she said.
I looked down at the bag of potato sticks in my hands before glancing at the canned fruit and all I could mutter was, "Huh?"
She was still buzzing around the kitchen looking for something and then she found it- a small box of toothpicks. "Here are the toothpicks," she stated with a smile, giving the box a little shake before placing it beside the canned figs.
I just stood there, holding the bag of potato sticks to my chest.
She stared at me as though I were a bit daft and repeated, "To decorate the turkey."
"Oh," I said with a blank look on my face. I really had no idea what she wanted me to do.
At this point, my mother-in-law came to stand beside her sister and asked me, "Haven't you ever decorated a turkey before?"
I shook my head as my husband entered the kitchen. All eyes turned to him.
"She's never decorated a turkey before," they said almost in unison.
Laughing, my husband told them, "That's because they don't decorate turkeys where she's from."
Both women looked surprised and distressed at the same time, as though they were sorry that I had been deprived of this pleasure my entire life.
"They don't decorate the turkey where she is from???"
My husband put his arm around me and explained that in Porto Alegre it was the custom to decorate the turkey.
His aunt added, "Many places that sell cooked turkeys will decorate them, but it costs exta."
"People want decorated turkeys!" my mother-in-law declared to drive the point home.
I just shrugged and shook my head. Everyone laughed (myself included- in fact, I still laugh about it). I was put on potato salad duty as my mother-in-law and her sister decorated the turkey. When it was finished I gazed in awed wonder at all the colors. Wow. On that very night, I declared that our bird was so festive that it needed a new name- one that was worthy of its splendor- and so it came to be called Carnival Turkey. True story. Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist