Exchange students inspire Brazilian barbecue

Staff writer

Jeannie and Brad Wildin have hosted 16 Brazilian exchange students as they attended Marion High School, and many of those students went on to attend Hesston College.

Their Marion residence would become home base for international students, as many as 22 college-aged adults sprawled on any surface they could sleep on.

“We built a bigger house to enable it,” Jeannie Wildin joked.

Wildin said she wanted to extend that hospitality to her cooking. She knew the Brazilian students were homesick for the weekend barbecues customary in their country. When the Wildins visited the South American country in 1997 and 1999, they found out that hospitality was the Brazilian way. The Wildins have hosted a Brazilian style barbecue for the past five years in Marion, feeding 51 people at Marion Country Club this year. Brazilian families may feed that many every weekend.

“That’s what you expect in Brazil,” Wildin said.

The other expectations are the simple staples of the meal starting with picanha steaks. The sirloin cap cut is uncommon in the U.S.; Wildin said she does not believe Americans realize how much flavor is packed into a four-ounce portion of the meat. Brazilians prefer to not marinate the picanha and only rub it with sea salt, giving the meat a crust along the fatty edges.

“You don’t need anything else,” Wildin said.

There is also bread. Wildin said the exchange students craved Brazilian style baguettes; French bread loaves were comparable on Saturday.

The steak was accompanied by simple rice and beans and onions grilled whole so they fell apart in translucent leaves. On each table were several bowls of farofa, which Wildin described as Brazilian ketchup.

“They put it on everything,” Wildin said.

Some of the Marion guests at the barbecue were hesitant to sample the toasted manioc flour mixture. Wildin makes her farofa with caramelized black onions. The mixture, about the consistency of corn meal, added flavor and texture to each of the components of the meal.

“The Brazilian boys say my farofa is better than their moms’,” Wildin said.

For refreshment, there was the Brazilian national drink caiprinha. Caiprinha is a potent mixture of cachaha, an alcohol derived from sugar cane, and lime. It tasted like a margarita with a tougher bite.

For dessert, there was Brazilian style flan, a Latin custard.

The proceeds from the meal went to the Marion Country Club.

 

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