Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Me V’s The Brazilian Mama

A couple of months ago I went for a night out in Sorocaba; the eighth biggest city in the state of Sao Paulo, and also the place my friend Carlos’ calls home. It was put on my radar a couple of years ago when someone drunkenly visited the city’s zoo, and thought it was a good idea to jump over the wire fencing separating him from the monkeys. He then swam over to the man-made island these monkeys were relaxing on and started to tease them, in a way that only a man under the courage of A LOT OF beer would dare to do! Eventually this guy was bitten and once he'd sobered up, he discovered that his shame had gone viral thanks to the power of Youtube.

Well on our visit to Sorocaba we didn't drink at the zoo, instead we did this in one of the city's nightclubs. During this night out I unwisely overindulged in the delicious, yet overpriced caipirinha-slushies, and the next morning I awoke not just to an empty wallet and a pounding headache, but also to a surprise family dinner to celebrate Carlos’ birthday. And when I say a family dinner, I mean I woke up to find an army of people had descended onto his house to mark the occasion. In true Brazilian family style a huge fest had been prepared, a fest that was demolished very quickly. So after a few hours of sitting round trying to understand what people were talking about in Portuguese talking, it was time for me and my friends to head back to Sao Paulo.  

Because we were taking the bus back to the city with Carlos, my friends and I ended up being the last to leave. And as I was waiting for everyone to get their things together, I found myself alone with Carlos’ mother in the kitchen, where I took the opportunity to thank her for her hospitality. I’d just started talking when she grabbed a two liter bottle from the fridge and interrupted me. “Would you like a bottle of my acerola juice?" she asked me in Portuguese, with such an infectious sense of enthusiasm that I actually felt bad for saying no.

As much as I’d have loved to have accepted, the main reason I declined was not that I’d never heard of an acerola before (also known as a Barbados cherry....yea, me neither!), but because I’d already brought a backpack full of things with me, and there was no way I’d have been able to ram a bottle that big into my bag without the zips giving way.

Surprisingly, her face maintained its enthusiasm at this refusal. When I attempted to continue and again thank her for letting me crash at her house, she raised the bottle a little closer to me and interrupted to repeat her original question.

“Would you like a bottle of my acerola juice?"  

The thought of lugging this bottle into a taxi, onto a bus and then onto the metro was just too much for my pulsating head to deal with at this point. So again I declined the offer, except I was a little firmer this time.

“No, but thank you VERY much for offering".

She continued to stare at me whilst clutching at this bottle; I don’t remember seeing her blink once, and after an awkward few seconds she repeated her question, seemingly undeterred by my other refusals.  

“This can be your acerola juice, if you like?" she said, having shaped this question differently for me. At that my friend walked into the kitchen and was immediately collared by his Mum. “Carlos” she began, as perhaps the thought had just occurred to her that maybe I hadn't understood her question in Portuguese, despite me only talking to her in Portuguese. “Ask Andrews if he wants some of my acerola juice".

“Andrew” my friend said in English, “my mama wants to know if you’d like some of her acerola juice”.

 “Carlos, please tell your Mum I said thank you, but….”

“Andrew” he interrupted urgently, “what are you doing? My mama makes really good acerola juice!”

He said this in a way that not only suggested he was incredibly surprised I wouldn't want this bloody great big bottle of a juice I’d never heard of, but that I was offending him personally by not taking it.

Now, as a Brit I’m fairly well versed in the habit of being polite. I’d been very firm but friendly and had even thanked his Mum for her offer…so I was at a bit of loss as to what I was supposed to do now without sounding rude. “My mama loves to give food and drink to people who come to our house Andrew” Carlos continued, “she will be really disappointed if you don’t take her bottle. We have an acerola tree in the garden, and she loves to give acerola juice for people who come to the house”.

"Go on, take it! It's only 2 liters!"
Well the last thing I wanted to do was upset his mother, she’d put me up for the night and welcomed me and our friends around her family dinner table. I just didn't want this bottle of friggin acerola juice!

However I soon conceded that there was no getting around this, and that bottle had had my name written all over it right from the start!

“So, does he want some acerola juice Carlos?" she asked again. I've got to hand it to my friend’s mother, she was nothing but persistent!

“Yes Andrew" Carlos repeated whilst looking intently at me, would you like some of my mama’s REALLY GOOD acerola juice?” 

“Erm, yes" I said quite convincingly, “I would!” 

A huge grin spread across Carlos’ Mum’s face as she then announced “I’ll just put it in a bag for you then”. Seconds later I was united with this large bottle, and my other friends also left the house with their own bottles too.

We all spent the next two hours taking these from the taxi, to the bus and then onto the metro as we made our way home. 

In my mind, this is what I looked like carrying my juice home!
As it turns out my friend was right, his ‘mama’ really does make great juice. But I’m not writing this post just to tell you this. My reason for writing this then, is to pass on what I learnt from this incident. 

From this encounter with the 'Brazilian mama', my advice to you is that if you're offered food or drink in a Brazilian mother's home, and you have a feeling that she might not take 'no' for an's probably best for you just accept whatever is being offered. Even if it's the last thing you actually want!

Of course I've discovered not all Brazilian mothers (and of course grandmothers) are like this, but coming from the UK, which is a country where things are frequently offered out of courtesy or politeness (For example I NEVER want someone to accept when I offer out my chocolate, but feel I have to ask before I can fully enjoy every last piece!) someone being so assertive when they offer you something was, and still is, quite new to me. And I've been told that this type of 'Brazilian mama' isn't that uncommon over here.

"When I go to certain peoples houses" recalled one of my students, "I know I'm going to be offered a lot of food...and I will probably feel bad if I say no. But there are some housewives in Brazil who love nothing more than feeding their guests, again and again and again!"

So after this incident, I know that if I'm ever invited back to Carlos' house, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I'll go there better prepared. And what I mean by this is that I'll be arriving on an emptry stomach, with a much larger back pack (perhaps even a suitcase) and PLENTY of tupperware boxes!


  1. Accept the juice, caralho! ooooooooooooow

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  3. Hi Andrew great story, just moved to brazil with my wife, and we are living in Sorocaba. We are staying with her mother in law, and have often found myself in the same situation as you. I gained a few pounds in England before moving over, and was determined to drop it after i arrived, but my mother in law keepos going out at lunch time and coming back with coxinha, not the thigh, the ball covered with potato and then fried. Once i refused it and tried to explain that i was trying to be careful because i gained too much weight, and she was put out, she didnt speak to me for the rest of the day!

    1. Hey Benjamin, your story made me laugh! Good luck with trying to lose weight whilst being guilt tripped into eating those coxinhas! Ha ha! How are you finding Sorocaba? And thanks for stopping by to comment!