The Fires of Brazil*

Years ago while working for a company in Knoxville, this little redneck was sent to Atlanta for a week to train on a new piece of software.  I thought it might be interesting to share one of the (many) new experiences of a hillbilly in the city for those of you that might be interested.

My story is about where we (a coworker was with me – I’ll call her Sheila to protect the innocent) ate dinner. It was called Fire of Brazil Churrascaria and, at the time, there were only four in the US.

I had never eaten Brazilian food so had I no idea what to expect. When the waiter seated us and explained what we should do I still had no idea what to do – I didn’t understand a thing he said. There was no menu…. There were two forks, a knife and a set of tongs….tongs…very interesting. I finally managed to figure out that you can get a plate from the salad bar and then when you are ready to eat the main course, there is a card on your table that has a red side and a green side. In Portuguese the green side must say something along the lines of “yes, please bring me meat!!!!!” I had a small salad and ate a couple of weird things with onions and something that had to have been picked from a plant somewhere – not bad really.

When I flipped my card over to the green side a miracle happened….

I was bombarded with one Brazilian Gaucho after another. These guys were walking around with steel skewers about three feet long impaling steaming meat of one sort or another that was straight off the fire and piping hot.

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Alcatra – Top Sirloin?” – “Uh, yes.” He set the end of the skewer down on a special plate on my table and started cutting a slice off. I had a smile you couldn’t wipe off with Sandpaper. He asked me to pick up my tongs and catch the piece as it fell. I did. My eyes began to swell. Somewhere in the distance I heard Handel’s Messiah begin playing.

Another Gaucho, “Excuse me, Sir, would you like Picanha – Rump Steak?” – Still teary eyed – “Uh yes”

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Filet Mignon wrapped in bacon?” – mouth full – “umph yef”

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Bottom Sirloin?” – a nod and “er”

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Cordeiro – Lamb?” – “Bring it on brotha”

Okay, Mike, you can do this, tongs, slice, chew, tongs, slice, chew. Any concerns about offending Sheila were long gone. I was a raging lion on the smorgasbord plains filled with hundreds of hobbling wildebeests screaming, ”pick me!”.

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Costela de Porco – Pork Ribs?” – “friend, you slice it and I’ll eat it – it may not even hit the plate.”

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Frango – chicken breast wrapped in bacon?” – Somewhere the Angelic chorus approached its crescendo.

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Linguica – pork sausages?”

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like ham?”

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like Beef Ribs?”

“Excuse me, Sir….”

“Excuse me, Sir….”

“Excuse me, Sir….”

I was in bliss. As my stomach reached a never before seen diameter, Sheila pointed out an obvious omission that I so far had not caught. “You know, with no menu, we never did see a price…”
SCREEEEEEETCH!!!!!!!!! That is the sound of Handel’s Messiah being ripped off the turntable.
Um, Mr. DJ, can you please put some Blues on? Instead, all I could hear was some twisted rendition of a Charlie Daniels song, “The Dummy Went Down to Georgia…”

Price shouldn’t be an issue – after all we had picked up a $10 coupon at the hotel. Ten dollars! With $10 bucks off it should be peanuts – right? I tried not to think about it as I quietly apologized to my stomach. Somehow, my wallet began to hurt worse than my stomach though. I pulled my wallet out and found my credit card was smoking more than the various pieces of meat that had paraded across my plate for the last half hour. Somehow, all that meat just wasn’t as appealing as it had been. I had visions of them bringing the bill out folded over and over on itself, impaled on one of those huge skewers, edges sagging from the tremendous weight of the ink required to print a number that large. That wasn’t exactly how it came – it was actually a very small piece of paper. It said something in Portuguese – probably something like you would see at a used car dealership “We owner finance!” or “We tote the note!” I searched desperately for the painful truth but the only number I saw looked like some kind of Wal-Mart ISBN number gone wrong. The number I was looking for could not be that long…..but it was.

For the second time but for a different reason, I was a shedding tears in Fires of Brazil churrascaria. I dripped my melting credit card into the leather booklet and motioned for the waiter that it was ready.

I won’t divulge the gory details but I am proud to say that I am trying to look at this like a finance guy should. After a few hours here is my best spin analysis: Based on the pounds of animal consumed, I am pleased to say that my average cost per pound was well under a dollar – post coupon of course. Actually pretty reasonable.

The best lesson learned by this hillbilly is that if you can’t speak the language don’t eat the food because I am pretty sure that the churrascaria in Fire of Brazil churrascaria must mean “good meat – scary price!”

If you enjoyed this column and would like to see more, click here.

© Michael L. Collins

*Originally published as “Bring on the meat: Brazilian steakhouse packs big surprise” in the September 30, 2013 edition of The Mountain Press.

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