Memories That Are Good for the Heart
Heart disease is the number one health issue in many countries. Some attribute it to poor nutrition, others to stress, or even a combination of both. There are many things that are bad for the heart, but there are also many things that are good. One of them is remembering moments of happiness or laughter.
Those memories, without us even noticing, will put a smile on our faces and warm our heart. They will make us dream again of our childhood and long for times gone by. I often sit at night on my porch, under the dark velvet sky sprinkled with brilliant stars, and remember my childhood at Fidalgo Farm. Fidalgo Farm was my grandparents‘s farm in the interior of Brazil, in the state of Minas Gerais.
They Called Me “Duckie”
My memories of that farm bring me so much joy. Chickens and ducks roamed the kitchen—hard to believe, I know—while dozens of kids ran around the house. Innocent little me would shoo the chickens out of their nests so that I could bring eggs to my grandmother’s pantry.
She would get so mad when I did this even though I never understood why. I thought I was helping her, doing a wonderful thing by bringing her eggs. Later, after many years, I found out that the chickens made nests to brood on their eggs. They were there warming the eggs with their feathers so that those could hatch and bring forth their chicks.
I always got in trouble. Whenever I was mischievous, my uncle would make me sit on one of the duck’s nest in the barn. These nests were up high and big for a little kid. Considering that I was very mischievous, I had to sit on those nests so many times that the family started affectionally calling me “duckie.”
Family Members of the Heart
My grandparents had various employees at that farm. They were all so gifted. We considered them family of the heart. Among them, Maria Cecilia, the cook, Ms. Raimunda Fulo, the baker—she made the best cakes and cookies—and Mr. Geraldo, who took care of the cattle.
They were my favorite. Mr. Geraldo was about 6.5 feet tall. I remember that he loved to drink “cachaça”—a typical Brazilian spirit distilled from fermented sugar cane—and that he hated wearing shoes.
My grandfather would quarrel with him, asking him to wear shoes. He even bought Mr. Geraldo many pairs of shoes but Mr. Geraldo was stubborn and never wore them. Walking around barefoot in a plant and animal farm is not the wises of choices. Quite often Mr. Geraldo would ask my mom to remove chiggers from his feet, as task similar to removing splinters. He would bring her orange-tree thorns to poke the affected area but she preferred using a needle. Afterwards, he would throw a shot of “cachaça” to disinfect the wound.
Those three were very funny and they loved to spook us kids. The house was huge and therefore it had a huge basement that served as storage for horse saddles, cattle salt, milk buckets, etc. Upon arriving at the farm, we would cross the corral, walk by the basement and then go up the stairs to the living room.
Whenever we arrived at night, Mr. Geraldo and Maria Cecília were down in the basement waiting to scare “unwanted guests.” They would cover themselves with a white sheet which had two holes for the eyes, put a hot red coal in their mouth—to this day I do not know how they did this—and run towards us making ghost sounds. We screamed so loud and run away so fast with our heart pounding that they’d nearly fall on the ground laughing.
Drover Beans Is Not Bad for the Heart
Maria Cecília, the cook, could drink any man under the table. All this drinking, however, never seemed to affect her. Early in the morning she would make a plate of “Drover Beans” (Feijão Tropeiro) for my grandfather, along with a pot of coffee. Beans in the morning were a common meal in those days. And the coffee was not ordinary either. She toasted the fresh beans in our kitchen and then ground it with a giant pestle. Maria Cecília did this everyday before my grandfather left to deliver milk to the Belgo-Mineira Steel Factory.
“Drover Beans” are a typical dish from Minas Gerais made with cooked whole beans. It is a delicious nectar of the gods and I would like to share Maria Cecília’s recipe with you.
How to Make Drover Beans
Sliced sausage (lingüiça or kielbasa)
Manioc flour (this is not tapioca from Bob’s Red Mill)
Fried pork rinds (optional)
Soak the beans overnight and then cook them in water. When they are halfway cooked and beginning to get soft, sauté the garlic, throw it in the beans and let them cook for another hour.
Once the beans are ready, drain any juice, leaving only the whole beans.
Cook the bacon and the sliced sausage on a frying pan, drain most of the fat. Add garlic and onions, and let them cook until they are browned. And finally pour the manioc flour, the parsley, the green onions and the colored greens (very fine strips). Mix all of these ingredients on the frying pan until they are cooked.
On a separate small frying pan, fry one egg.
Place the beans on the plate, pour some of the bacon, sausage, colored green, and manioc flour mixture over the beans.
Top with the a fried egg and if you have the stomach, add some pork rind.
If you chose all of the ingredients wisely, this dish is excellent for your heart health. It is not for daily consumption but it serves as an exotic, international breakfast.
Make sure to get all-organic ingredients; the meat cannot have nitrates or preservatives; the eggs must be from chickens that roam free in the pasture.