The Portuguese Department at FSI is the best! This past Friday, we got to celebrate our 8th week of class and the fact that we can hold conversations with each other (very rudimentary, but we can still convey ideas and information).
We did this by taking a field trip to a local churrascaria. For those who aren't familiar with the Brazilian form of barbecue, let me explain a bit. First off, it's a one price, all-you-can eat situation. Which means you have a very light breakfast or none at all. And don't make plans for dinner - you won't want to eat again!
The meal starts off with a trip to the salad bar. But unlike salad bars in the US, this salad bar has less varieties of lettuce and a lot more varieties of prepared vegetables and cheeses. There was reggiano parmesan, grilled provolone, goat cheese and small mozzarella balls. There was also marinated mushrooms, steamed asparagus, roasted peppers and onions, hearts of palm, artichoke hears and grilled jalapenos. And at this particular restaurant there were also other Brazilian specialties like feijoada.
But be careful - you don't want to fill your plate because the real reason you're there is yet to come. At your table, everyone gets a small round card that's green on one side and red on the other. You flip the card to indicate whether you want more (green) or want to rest for a while (red). You can keep flipping as many times as you want. Servers stroll around the restaurant with many different cuts of meat. When they see that you're showing green, they come by and slice off a bit for you. Everyone gets special tongs to grasp the slice as they're cutting it and put it on your plate. The meats are wonderful. There are the varieties that you might be familiar with - filet mignon, flank steak, chicken encrusted with parmesan, leg of lamb. And then there are the ones that are special to Brazil - Brazilian sausages and my favorite - picanha! In addition to all that - they also bring to your table some side dishes: fried bananas with cinnamon sugar, mashed potatoes and another favorite - little warm cheese breads. There is so much to eat and try and it all tastes so good!
Of course, since it was a part of class, the entire experience was conducted in Portuguese. We sat with our wonderful classmates and instructors and got to know each other a little bit better. I was even able to explain in detail how to prepare Bananas Foster to my teacher - all in Portuguese!
We had a great time!