Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Recycled Blog post

I'm heading out to visit some of my Husband's family in New York. I will be AWOL until the New Year.  I just wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year!  In reflection of a favorite and since I am a lover of recycling. Here's an old favorite of mine:

The Brazilian Family Lunch

I was chatting on the phone with my Mother yesterday morning.  As I normally do, I was simultaneously talking to my husband. He was asking about this or that and after the lunch. I replied, no no, after lunch we have to come home so I can make the boys dinner and give them their bath.

My Mother was perplexed.  Why would you have to make the kids their dinner after a lunch?  And bath time?  What time is this lunch??

Seems crazy, I know.  But if you've been to a family lunch in Rio de Janeiro, you get it.

A family lunch starts at a reasonable time, around 12:30 or 1pm.   Here's the kicker. It only ends around 4 or 430pm,  and that is if you bow out early.  A true family lunch means that, if your kids follow an American/Canadian eating and sleeping routine, you'll be leaving after they've also eaten dinner and in time for bath. 

What is a Brazilian family lunch you ask?  That's a lunch that is on a Saturday or Sunday at least once a month, usually at a Grandmother's place.  There will be a huge feast starting about 1 hr after at least 80 % of the family is there.  Then there is dessert.  Following that is coffee. There must be at least a half hour of prep time in between each course and this prep will only start once everyone is finished with the proceeding course.

I know what you are thinking.  You'll come for lunch and head out before dessert.  I don't think so.

Should you leave before all courses, you are opening yourself up to be discussed by the rest of the family. Oh the disrespect! That is, of course, unless you have a good excuse. There are 3 good excuses. 1. Another family lunch that you ditched for this one but are trying to make it for coffee. You get bonus points for this excuse since you picked them for the actual meal.  2. A child's school school event or birthday party.  Don't worry, it doesn't have to be your child. Any child will do. 3. Death. Yours or someone else. Hidden option number 4. You just don't show up to begin with and don't answer your phone. Be prepared to suck up later and for possible telephone harassment before the next family lunch. 

One warning, Brazilian family lunches are not for the claustrophobic.  It's madness contained in a 12 x 8 ft dining room with 42,000 members of the family and 100,000 lbs of food. I may have exaggerated slightly.  In my defense, I'm a foreigner and that's what it feels like to me.

And finally, I love it!  I love family lunches.  Every relative from the 3rd degree cousin to the maid's sister's son is there.  You mix and mingle like musical chairs.  People just get up and move and sit down somewhere else.  If I didn't know better, I'd think the apartment was a snowglobe and we were shaken up about every 15 minutes.

Plus the kids can run around and be just that, kids.  Each person takes their turn with the little ones. They also try to feed them. My kids consume about 15,000 calories each family lunch.  It is madness personified and I highly recommend it.

It's not a rare thing to find.  Just try to get a parking spot in Flamengo/Laranjeiras on a Saturday around noon. It's not going to happen. The entire population of Rio de Janeiro are visiting the Grandmas and about half of them live in Flamengo/Laranjeiras.  There are some stragglers in Copacabana and some rich grannies over by the beaches of Ipanema, Leblon, and Barra. But Flamengo and Laranjeiras, those places are Granny central!

You will leave the family lunch happy and drained. You might as well have gone to a bar until the wee hours of the night.  You will feel the same way. You could potentially be slightly drunk from the beer and you will be highly over stimulated.  It's an amazing event which will leave you and your spouse with hours of conversation.


  1. Funny, funny (laughed out loud as usual!) and can totally relate. Italian family lunches are the same! Once we had "lunch" that started at 1pm, and we were done at 6.30pm! And gotta love it when the kids eat that much. Doesn't matter if it's a balanced meal, this mom is just glad when her child eats! Just another typical family lunch!!

  2. You have it light. My family is 3 times larger, my grandma lives in Nova Iguaçu, which is a franchise of hell in Rio, everybody drinks too much, gets worked up on issues like soccer and politics and eventually somebody fights or cries in the end. Or makes a drunken speech. There's a moment where people start dancing, you know, whatever, from samba to funk. Then singing and playing guitar. There are many trips to the store to get more beer, since apparently they never get enough. Usually someone has a brilliant idea of themes for the Christmas party. Or just decide to open the big shower on the backyard and start throwing each other into the water. Some people arrive at 4pm, but nobody leaves before 11pm. I have 13 cousins, none of them are single, 3 nephews, 9 uncles/aunts and a few aggregates (neighbours and stuff). And somehow we love it.

  3. So I'm just wondering...who prepares the food for these large family gatherings and who does the clean up? Because I shudder to think that poor grandma is doing all the work!!!

  4. Oh no! At least in my family each sub-family brings a little something. Unless it's a churrasco or a feijoada, in which case it's all on grandma. And the cleaning is left for the maid on the next day, except for dishes, that get washed throughout the party (no one has that many glasses etc.) by whoever feels like stopping by the kitchen or gets thristy and there's no clean glass available, even the little coffee cups are used for beer or whatever. At least that's how it works in mine. Nobody ever complained. No, wait, I have a Spanish aunt that once said there was too little food in our parties. We told her to feel confortable to bring whatever else she liked to.