Don’t Do This At Home

feijoada_completa_restaurante_jardim1

All this talk about music is really making me hungry.

Scroll up through my last few posts and you’ll see photos of “Juliana Soup” and “Cozido à Portuguesa.”  That’s what I ate in Lisbon working on “NO STRAIGHT LINES.”  But now let’s get down to business.  Directly overhead is a photo of a Brazilian “Feijoada Completa,” often called the national dish of Brazil.  Now we’re talking real, “massive-coronary” food.  Maybe the tastiness of Brazilian cuisine explains why Brazil reputedly gained independence from Portugal without a single bullet ever being fired.  (Recognize I’m trying to rein myself in here.  The Bahian food (e.g., vatapa, moqueca, and xin-xin de galinha) I had at the Covento do Carmo during Carnaval in Salvador in 1984 was some of the best food I’ve had in my life; and the Galinha de Cabidela (Chicken In Its Own Blood) at Nelson Faria‘s family farm outside Brasilia that same trip equally gratifying in its own way.)

I started cooking feijoada completas in the mid 1980s and surely have made that meal more than 100 times, probably even twice that.  I have many stories to tell about past feijoadas and some really great hangs, too many to go into here…and many stories about where I’ve had eaten great feiojadas, including at the Tropical Hotels in both Manaus and Foz da Iguazu during the 1980s.  (Years later I was at Iguassu Falls staying on the Argentina side and traveled over to the Tropical Hotel in Brazil just to have another go at their feijoada!)

In my last post I briefly mentioned Toninho Horta.  I met him at a party at Sergio Mendes’ house the same night I met Ivan Lins and Djavan in about 1982 I imagine.  I never saw Djavan again.  I ran into Ivan briefly at the NARM Convention in 1989 when he was being promoted by Warners and I was being promoted there by Private/BMG.  And once around the same time at a feijoada at John Pisano‘s house.  Ivan still barely spoke English at that time.  I remember he described how people disappeared during military rule in Brazil as “suddenly they never returned.”  That about sums it up.

Many years ago Toninho was staying with me in LA, which seemed like a great reason to have a feijoada.  Actually, Toninho later confessed to me he wasn’t all that fond of feijoada, preferring healthier food.  This came as a surprise to me, especially because when I stayed with him in Belo Horizonte in 1984 he took me to a local restaurant to make sure before I leave Minas Gerais I eat this:

feijão-tropeiro

What is this? It’s a “Feijao Tropeiro,” a Mineiro feijoada – as if a feijoada alone wasn’t already an immediate heart attack – WITH eggs on top!  Yow!  Shame on you, Toninho!

I always loved this lyric I wrote for Toninho’s “Aquelas Coisas Todas,” here recorded by the artist Kenia (with my old friend and bandmate Paul Socolow on bass):

http://grooveshark.com/s/Distant+Horizon/48bw26?src=5

But I digress. At this particular feijoada, Frank Zottoli (who, like Paul Socolow, eventually became fluent in Portuguese) showed up with a friend of his, Leon, who was a Brazilian chef.  Leon made an absolutely killer hot sauce that night that everyone commented on.  I was totally wrapped up preparing the basic meal (there were more than 30 guests) so I didn’t see how he made it but he left the recipe.  I’ve had it pasted in my Brazilian cookbook for decades now.  The key ingredient is in bold italics.

Leon’s Hot Sauce

Marinate the following ingredients:
Cilantro, chopped as fine as possible
Garlic minced into paste
Red onions minced as fine as possible
Malagueta peppers minced as fine as possible

Put above 3 ingredients in bowl and add:
2t rubbing alcohol or 3-4 t cachaca, whichever available
Green or red pepper, minced fine

Mix with cilantro (save 1/3 until the end)
Add 4-5T olive oil to alcohol mix
Salt, cumin, crushed black pepper or white pepper
Lemon or lime

Mix and add remaining cilantro at end

Before anyone does this at home, here is something I quickly found on the internet: “When ingested, isopropyl alcohol can cause: “drowsiness, unconsciousness, and death. Gastrointestinal pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also result. The single lethal dose for a human adult = about 250 mls (8 ounces).”

Thank god we were totally safe!

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Cozido

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All this talk about literature is making me hungry.

The above photo is of Portuguese cozido, a typical Portuguese stew.   It can be made from a range of vegetables and meats including pig’s ear, pig’s tail, blood sausage and other various “unmentionables.”  Ahhhh…

When I went to Lisbon to write, two friends I made there, Ana Bárbara Ramalho and Pedro Simoes Dias, separately both wanted me to do the very same two things (so I did them): go to a particular Japanese tea house they loved, and eat a genuine Portuguese cozido.  In its eclectic use of unmentionables, a cozido is not all that divorced from a “feijoada,” the national dish of Brazil in which I have seen pig’s tails.  I was later surprised to learn that the Portuguese actually also have their own various versions of feijoada, some made with white beans.  Nao posso acreditar!  By the way, my Brazilian Portuguese (not that it’s all that great any more) was utterly useless in Lisbon.

It rained a lot of the time I was in Lisbon, perfect cozido weather.  I stayed in my room a lot, working on “NO STRAIGHT LINES.”  I wrote most of the lyric for a song called “Tale Of My Life” that didn’t make it on the album (but which I’ll release separately next year).  Over the process of making the record I wrote three entirely different sets of lyrics for the song that became “Road Of Pain,” one of them in my little room in the 2-star Albergaria Senhora Do Monte, situated on the highest of Lisbon’s seven hills.  Here was the view, without the rain.  The good life.

 albergaria-senhora-do

Speaking of feijoada, the guitar part in “Road Of Pain” was very Brazilian-influenced, a holdover from my past.  I was expecting to hear lots of Brazilian and maybe some Angolan or Mozambican live music in Lisbon, one of the principle reasons I was exploring possibly relocating there during that trip.  Although Brazilian music is nowadays ubiquitous worldwide (though I spent a lovely evening listening to two guys playing bossa novas out of the Real Book in a tiny restaurant on Santorini all the way back in 1979) I either didn’t know where to look or Lisbon wasn’t a great international music town — disappointing given how musically rich Portugal’s former colonies were and are.  (And speaking of the “Real Book,” a song I wrote with Jimmy Haslip for the Yellowjackets years ago called “Sonja’s Sanfona” is included in Chuck Sher’s classic “New Real Book.”  I wrote the opening of that song in a hotel lobby in Belo Horizonte (speaking of Brazil) in 1984 waiting for Toninho Horta to pick me up to stay at his house.)

But I did hear some wonderful fado in Lisboa though, in the back streets of the Alfama and once in a jam-packed club in the Barrio Alto where the players didn’t start playing until 2:30 am!  Lisbon is most definitely a late night city.

A couple of the currrent era fadistas I quite like are Mafalda Arnauth, especially her “Encantamento” album, and Ana Moura.  (For me Amalia Rodriguez is too much an acquired taste from another era, or I’d recommend her initially as well.  Fado can be a bit like crawling through fudge for all its sentimentality, though this from someone who admittedly speaks limited Portuguese.)  Here’s one of the many beautiful songs off of “Encantamento” called “As Fontes.”

When I got back I wanted to incorporate some kinds of Portuguese influences on “No Straight Lines” beyond the mere fact of having been inspired so deeply by Fernando Pessoa (see my last post) and having spent time in Lisbon.  I early on wrote a couple of songs in a fado style for the album but never felt comfortable singing them and abandoned the idea.  I also really wanted to use Portuguese guitarra on the album, but had no ideas for players.  I called my good friend Don Cohen (who has written great introductory books on not only fado, but also tango and gypsy music), who told me to forget about trying to find anyone nearby or even in California who could play the instrument well (though I did find one guy who could do that), let alone play it outside a fado context.  I toyed with the idea of doing a long distance session with someone from Portugal but for various reasons it was too cumbersome.

So, for better or worse, I bought one and played it myself — not all that well, mind you, and surely not anything like a real fado player, but passably, I hope!  What an amazing instrument, very particular, and incredibly fun to play.

BG 6ML