When I was a little girl, my family lived in Recife, Northeastern Brazil, located about 10 degrees South of the Equator. In the summer months (Dec. Jan. Feb) it would get so hot, the schools were closed on vacation because it would be intolerable for kids to be in a classroom, not to mention downright unhealthy. My parents always used to send my sister Doreen and me to stay with our grandparents, who owned a farm up in the mountains of Pernambuco, where it was much cooler.
My Granny kept chickens and there is nothing chickens love more than ants and termites. So Doreen, a couple of boys who were friends of ours and I, used to wander around the farm, looking for ant hills. When we found one, we'd pull it over, all of us would heave it up onto the wheelbarrow (those suckers were heavy) and run hell for leather to Granny's chicken run as ants poured out of their now destroyed home. We'd hurl the ant hill into the chicken run and the chickens would go wild with joy, pecking up those ants as fast at their beaks could grab them! Granny's chickens got to know us and every time we walked by their run, they'd come galloping over to the fence, anticipating a yummy ant meal!
Granny kept chickens mostly for their eggs, but every so often, she would kill one of her plump hens and roast it for our Sunday dinner. I've never tasted a better chicken, and Doreen and I swore it was because of the many ant meals we'd provided them!
Granny used to grow her own coffee too! I always laugh when I hear the Folger's ad saying it's "mountain grown coffee" as if that was something unique, different and special about Folger's, but the fact is coffee bushes will only grow on a hillside! They need the water to run off and not pool around the plants in order to flourish.
Once the bright red berries were harvested, Granny would have her workers put them out onto a huge circular sieve (about 10 feet in diameter) with a broad wooden rim around it. They'd lie out in the sun until they were completely dried up. Then three men should grab this sieve, tossing the dried up coffee beans up high into the air, causing their shrivelled up husks to fly off in the breeze, leaving just the bean.
These would then be roasted, and finally put through a grinding machine. I can honestly say that I have never ever tasted coffee as delicious as Granny's.
She also made her own butter, and I used to watch her do it with utter fascination. The cream would get skimmed off the milk (produced by her own cows) and put into what today would be called an old fashioned butter churn. She'd work it back and forth, continually, until the cream solidified into butter. Then taking two long wooden paddles with grooves running along them, she'd scoop up the butter onto these paddles and pat them back and forth into a rectangular shape. Need I say Granny's butter was the best ever?
My grandparents were retired missionaries, and very very religious! It seemed to us that they regarded just about everything as a sin! No kidding - it was even a sin for a woman to cut her hair because St. Paul said the beauty of a woman is in her hair! Granny never ever cut hers. She had in done in a plait, wound around and around her head! On Sundays, we weren't allowed to play - because Sunday was a "day of rest." We were expected to sit quietly and read the Bible all day! As you can imagine, we hated Sundays! Anyhow, Mum told me that when we went back to Recife after three months of grand-parently religious indoctrination, my sister and I were intolerably pious! She said it took her about three weeks to get us back to normal!
Anyhow, one year when we'd just come back from the farm, I was at the Country Club with my parents. Strangely enough, Bishop Evans was visiting, and he was sitting on the club veranda with a glass of beer in front of him. I took one look at it and said, in a horrified voice "Bishop, you've been DRINKING." Now apparently the Bishop wasn't averse to having a whiskey snifter before supper, but on this occasion, he wasn't guilty, because the beer wasn't even his! In fact, he HATED beer! But he thought my remark was screamingly funny. He threw his head back, and howled with laughter, once again embarrassing the heck out of me!
Many years later, we’d moved South to Morro Velho in the State of Minas Gerais, where one of my school friends was a girl named Maureen Shegog. She had masses of thick, black hair which was lush and long. She wore it in two fat pigtails. Oh how I envied her those luscious pigtails. Anyhow, I told Mum I wanted to grow mine long too, so I could have pigtails like Maureen's, and Mum allowed me to do so. Every day, I'd ask Mum
"Is it long enough yet?" and she'd smile and say
"No, not yet sweetheart."
Finally, the magical day arrived - it was long enough to be put into pigtails! I was beside myself with excitement! Mum sat me down and carefully threaded my platinum blond hair into plaits with blue bows on them. When she was finished, I eagerly looked in the mirror! Well, you never in all your life saw such pathetic, pitiful pigtails! They looked like two skinny little rat tails! I was heartbroken! When I went to school the next day with my newly acquired rat tails, Maureen looked down her snub nose at them.
“Your pigtails look ridiculous! Why one of mine is bigger than both of yours put together.” She tossed her luscious plump pigtails and walked off disdainfully.
I was crushed because I knew that alas, she was right. I went home and told Mum to cut mine off. “Are you sure dear?” she asked. “You know how long it took you to grow them.”
My lower lip trembled as I tried to contain my tears. “Yes, cut them off Mum – I’ll never have pigtails again.” And I haven’t.
Somewhere or other, I have a photograph of me with those pigtails. I wish I knew where it was!