October 21, 2012 | Portuguese
A Field Trip: Brazil in Astoria
In which I am somewhat foiled in my efforts to take pictures of Brazilian food.
I have been silent but studying. I confess that I set aside Portuguese for two weeks in late September to work daily on the perpetually-in-progress language-resources directory for this website—but I did then return to the Portuguese, although on a pared-back schedule to accommodate other work I need to do. And unfortunately, the directory is nowhere near complete. Though closer than before!
I am having an internal struggle right now with how to keep what I have learned of Portuguese while retaining my more functional Romance languages. The New York City Marathon is coming up, and it is my intention to volunteer again. My past experiences have left me with the impression that Spanish, German, French, and Italian are more useful there than Portuguese. Therefore, I am trying to review on the side, but my head seems to have hit its Romance language limit—at least the limit without my devoting myself to this full-time, which I can’t, because I have a job, and it is in English!
Astoria, 36th Avenue and 31st Street
When I review other languages, I forget Portuguese. When I review Portuguese, I screw up my Italian. The more recent arrivals in my brain are the most vulnerable to being overridden and jumbled.
This afternoon—partly to try to slow the verbal exodus from my brain, and partly just to get out in the world—I decided to go visit a Brazilian establishment, Rio Market, I had heard about. It is off the 36th Avenue stop on the N train, in Astoria.
Rio Market sells many Brazilian products: food, beverages, cosmetics, etc. It includes a travel agency and a restaurant as well. The business has a well established website with online ordering capabilities, and I see on the site that one can order up to 72 different soccer-related items, from towels and keychains to cups and flags.
Rio Market Takes Up Much of the Block!
There Are Restaurant Offerings, Too
Rio Travel, When Your Destination is Brazil
Coco Samba, Brazilian Coconut Water
Generally I try to take pictures surreptitiously, but employees could see me from most angles, so after sneaking in a couple of photos (such as of the coconut water), I didn’t feel comfortable continuing without permission. If I run around a store with a camera, people tend to get uncomfortable and think I am a health inspector or a wily competitor or someone who is generally up to no good.
So I felt I had to ask if I could take pictures. I pled my case twice, once in English and once in Portuguese, really pretty bad Portuguese, but the Brazilian employees wanted me to talk to their boss first. He wasn’t there today, unfortunately. Their concern was totally understandable, and it was responsible of them to be protective of the store, but kind of a bummer nonetheless. A little less conscientiousness would have come in handy!
Therefore, I will leave their products undocumented visually, but I assure you, there were many Brazilian things to be had. A lot of cool food that I was itching to point my iPhone at!
I heard Portuguese throughout the store. Some of it came from a very tall guy who walked out after I had exited and while I was still lurking on the street in front of the store, trying to figure out what to do next. I stopped him and asked, “Você é brasileiro?” (Are you Brazilian?) He politely confirmed his Braziliannness and talked to me for a couple of minutes about the neighborhood.
His name was Sydney. He has been here 22 years and is married to an American. Not too shockingly, given his size, he does security work of some sort.
He told me that the neighborhood used to have a lot more Brazilians, but that many had returned to Brazil or moved elsewhere, so the numbers had dwindled. (Even so, just walking down the street I still heard a lot of Portuguese.)
According to Sydney, Rio Market is a real destination around here. People come to Astoria from Manhattan just to shop there. A reverse food commute!
There was another Brazilian restaurant on the next block, Copacabana, which was for 4 p.m. rather extraordinarily packed.
Copacabana Restaurant, 36th Avenue
Happy Copacabana Eaters
And then another grocery store at 36th Avenue and 31st Street, called KeyFood, which wasn’t Brazilian but which had a number of Brazilian products on its shelves. I think this Toddy product (below right) is sold in Brazil, but I couldn’t quite understand the pote econômico phrasing. That sounds like “economical drink,” but I can’t get Google Translate to confirm that, and if that is what it means, it doesn’t seem like the sexiest of marketing slogans. So I am guessing I am off in my reading comprehension.
KeyFood in Astoria
Toddy for Sale
Doce de Leite, aka Dulce de Leche
Sardinhas, aka Sardines
As I left the grocery store, I passed a Brazilian woman in the doorway speaking Portuguese into her cell phone.
The variety of food available in this city astounds me. Where language goes, food follows!