It’s 11.30 pm in Brazil but it already feels like dawn has broke. I’m 19, I’ve just left Australia by myself to chase what I think is the love of my life. When I arrive I’m picked up by her and her friends and we start our road trip back to her hometown in the South of Brazil. It’s summer – I’m sweaty, nervous and jet lag. The last time I saw her was a year ago and everything feels very new but the excitement I am feeling to discover the culture and food of South America is all I can think about. We arrive at her house – they are drinking wine but I collapse in bed.
I rose a few times during my restless sleep but am suddenly awakened by the warming aroma of cheese, freshly baked bread and coffee. Although these smells are familiar to me there there is something different, almost sweet about these ones.
I remember walking into the kitchen and there was a breakfast spread on the table – fresh papaya, cottage cheese, molasses, homemade yoghurt and these oddly shaped bread balls. Although simple in their looks and not the first thing I grabbed, biting into one of them was what started the end of my skinny 19 year old self- gosh! Crispy on the outside, steaming hot, soft and chewy on the inside – my love for Pão de queijo had begun.
Over the next few weeks every morning became a ritual. We would wake up, filter coffee and I would run down to the padaria ( bakery ) and order a huge paper bag of piping hot Pao de quiejo. But the memories didn’t stop there. Meeting her parents for the first time, last minute 5am breakfasts at the airport, and my most vivid memory – pressing little dollops of vegemite into the top of the dough when I was missing Australia. It was my way of feeling for a moment that I was back home.