Ah, the fake tan has faded but the memories linger …
One might think we would have stayed in bed all day after the parade but no, we rallied in the afternoon and went to Ipanema for a late lunch, as part of our quest to obtain what we call a “plate dish”. Yes, I know, the term is redundant. In Brasil there is an association of restaurants. If one dines in one of the association’s restaurants and eats a specific dish identified as a “Prato da Boa Lembrança” one gets to keep a handpainted plate. Painted in the center of the plate is a design of the food, usually some charming animal. At the top of the plate is the name of the restaurant and underneath that is the name of the special meal. At the bottom is painted the city in which the restaurant is located and the year.
Mrs. Motorola is the person responsible for passing along this valuable information to me before she returned to the Land of Plenty. It was said, at the time, that she would endure layovers in out of the way cities in Brasil and other inconveniences just to obtain a plate. Before she left she had a collection of 56 (I counted). Maria, also, collected plates but I learned that a bit later. She gave me one of my first ones although, technically, this does not count as I did not “earn” the plate. Maria also gave me the plate from the farthest away: Fernando do Noronha, which is about halfway to Africa.
So, on Monday afternoon, we trekked over to Ipanema for lunch at the Caesar Park Hotel’s Galani restaurant, even though we both think that obtaining a plate from a restaurant in a hotel is rather tacky. The hotel’s special was a salmon and lobster brochette. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I do not like fish or other forms of seafood. I was counting on Mr. Understanding to eat the “plate dish”. He usually does since most of the plates involve fish. He, however, was looking forward to a burger after his sambaing and who am I to deny a person a burger? Maria sacrificed herself and ate the brochette but gave me the plate. Is that a friend, or what??? I ask you. Later we walked out through the masses on Ipanema Beach and asked someone to take our photos with the plates. Kooky to be sure, but as it turns out, a good decision. A little boy passing by asked Maria to take his photo:
Here is Maria with her original plate:
Let me just add right here that it is hard to find a plate restaurant open during Carnaval. This seems bizarre to me but that is life. The one plate restaurant we really wanted to go to had closed up shop 6 months before. So on Tuesday night we went to Quadrifoglio, a restaurant Mr. Understanding and I had been to in August for our anniversary, where Mr. Understanding and Maria both ate a scallop and risotto dish. The dish was the same, a practice which always irritates me. The plate should change every year or else there is no reason to collect that plate. Anyhoo, the only difference on my plates was the year. But the restaurant is outstanding and we all left very happy.
The only mishap of the trip occurred when we arrived in Petropolis on Wednesday. The driver opened the trunk of the car and out fell Maria’s plates and costume paraphernalia. The ceramic in the plate boxes tinkled merrily, much to our dismay. I offered to give Maria back her Galani plate but she declined, mainly because it came from a franchised hotel. I gave her my Quadrifoglio plate instead since I had the same one from 2006. We both got plates at Locanda della Mimosa but I was tasked with handcarrying them all back home with me. Under no circumstances should one pack a plate in a suitcase, as Mrs. O’Leary can attest.
In my collection I have 25 plates. I hope to collect two more before I leave so that each of my children can have 9. They like the plates too. Not all of my plates are hanging on the wall and now there is no point. Yesterday, as part of my purge/organization I whipped out a Sharpie, a household tool I dedicate to Martita, an expat princess extraordinaire known for her dinner parties and organizational skills, and wrote my memories on the back of each one. Now I have to take the ones off the wall and write on the back. There is one or two I have no recollection of the restaurant or with whom I was eating but the rest I remember.
Here are just a few of my favorites:
Fogo Caipira, Campo Grande, 2006 with Missionary Girl and Family (this is a hard one to get too, might I add. Just look at the map). It was the end of another perfect trip.
Locanda della Mimosa, Petropolis, Carnaval 2007 – I actually ate the meal with the ox tail and it was delicious. Just don’t order the chocolate mousse and crème brulee afterwards for dessert. It looks the same!
Viradas do Largo, Tiradentes, 2005 with my sister and her family. “I just wish the bean wasn’t smoking,” Margaret said when she saw the plate. This is the cheapest of all possible Boa Lembrança meals but it gets points for authenticity and is a good value.
Vila Bueno, Jaguariuna, 2006. Christened “the Alpo Plate” by my husband, a traditional Brasilian dish involving dried meat. Having said that, I am going back (Gamamae’s godmother owns the restaurant) to get the “fish on the train” dish. Maria and Fernando have already agreed to eat the dish if I pay for lunch – a good deal for all since I detest codfish.
Charlie’s Pantry, Campinas, 2004. This is a handpainted plate by my dear friend, Charlie. She painted it for my 40th birthday. I do not have the talent to paint one for her 40th which is fast approaching so will have to cook up something else. It does not look like the others but I consider it part of the collection and it is my favorite. Talk about a thoughtful gift! It is posted here:
Lembrança can mean souvenir or memory in Portuguese. I have collected both with many friends over the years. Every day in my kitchen, where the plates hang, I remember many friends long gone with fondness and enjoy the kitchen’s karma. For insurance purposes, I am valuing each plate at $500 and photographing each one. This will in no way cover the price of the plate if one breaks on its way to China – you can never go back – but maybe it will pay for a meal with some new friends.