Brazilian Romeo & Juliet
"We're going to try a Brazilian dish tonight."
"Does it involve meat?" my husband asked hopefully. "Is it a big, awesome, meaty stew that will leave me in a food coma?"
"No, it's vegetarian. And it's really just a snack or a dessert, not the main course."
"What is it?"
"It's called Romeo and Juliet. It's guava paste and cheese."
"Wait, what? Guano paste? They sell that? Why is that even a thing?"
"Ew, what? Why are we talking about poo? How did we get here?"
"You said you were going to make me eat guano paste. With cheese."
"Not guano, guava. It's a fruit. Not bat dung. Guano versus guava. Two very different things."
In a month we head to Brazil with our two young daughters. We've studied Portuguese, wrestled with the Brazilian Consulate for visas, and been vaccinated against yellow fever. But we hadn't yet tried any Brazilian dishes. And I was eager to associate the word "Brazilian" with something other than "wax" or "blowout", because much of American society woefully recognizes Brazilian culture for nothing more than the painful removal of hair or the chemical enhancement of hair. Neither of which interest me.
Through Multicultural Kid Blogs I discovered Sasha Martin's Global Table Adventure, an incredible site where an ambitious mom documents her journey of cooking recipes from around the world, culminating in her memoir Life from Scratch. I adore the idea of exploring other cultures right from your kitchen. She has more than 650 recipes and you can search by country. Naturally, I clicked on Brazil.
I briefly contemplated feijoada, a stew of beans with a variety of meats, that would have pleased my husband right into the food coma he so desired, but I've been leaning toward meatless meals when possible. And Brazilian Romeo and Juliet sounded so intriguing and romantic. There was also the benefit of it having only two ingredients.
My usual grocery store doesn't carry guava paste, so I stopped in at Boise's Campos Market on Orchard. I wasn't sure what I was looking for. A jar? A tube? Would it be refrigerated? Expensive? But after wandering the aisles for a minute, there it was in a large flat can for two bucks and change.
I added in a small wheel of queso fresco and the shopping was done. You could serve this on a cracker, but I went without. I cut small rectangles of the cheese and added a little of the guava paste on top. My daughters took tentative nibbles without complaint, because I bribed them with Halloween candy if they did so. My husband tried it and offered little more than, "Yeah, it's okay."
My shoulders slumped. The creator of Global Table Adventure hadn't fallen in love with this dish, either, so I'm not sure what I expected of my innately carnivorous husband and daughters who insist that anything not terribly bland is "spicy".
Then it was my turn. I tried a little square of cheese with the guava paste. Not bad, I thought. And then I ate another. And another. And then I decided that my life had not been fully lived until that moment. I absolutely love the stuff. The cheese tempers the sweetness of the guava paste, which in turn tames the saltiness of the cheese. These two flavors were meant to be together. Like Romeo and Juliet. (Until that unfortunate and messy death stuff at the end).
"How do you not love this?" I asked my husband during a brief respite from stuffing my face.
"It's... good," he said. "I'm just glad you're not cooking with guano."
View the recipe on Global Table Adventure.