About a week ago, my sister announced her oldest daughter, Lauren, is maybe, probably, almost certainly getting married, to which another sister replied, “Should we throw him into the deep end of the pool?” That’s how nine of us, plus one dazed fiancé, ended up at a Brazilian restaurant that was happy to take our money, even though they didn’t technically have room for quite that many elbows.
To be honest, it was probably my fault. I wasn’t intending to go because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and was so exhausted I was starting to blubber my lips and hope complete sentences fell out. But Saturday morning I awoke after a whole night’s sleep, and figured I’d better get myself added to the dinner reservation . . . oh, and my kids, Abby and Porter, are coming, can you add them too? . . . An hour before dinner I learned my son, Chase, was carpooling from Provo with the happy couple. Could we stir him into the mix? The restaurant very kindly accommodated us, cheerfully adding more plates and chairs—but not more space. How do ten people have dinner at a six-person table? We were about to find out.
Our table was actually three square tables shoved together. You’ve seen these tables, one being just the right size to seat four people, one person per side, when the whole contraption is sitting separately in the middle of the room. But these tables were pushed together, end to end, one end butted against a column, creating a geometric story problem in which one table that accommodates four people becomes three tables that accommodate six. Technically, it could have seated seven, if they’d counted the head, but they didn’t. Instead, they looked at those three dinky, square tables, and said, “Oh yeah, two plates totally fit on one side.” Mathematically speaking, they were correct, the plates did measure the adequate number of inches. Tragically, the people arrived with all kinds of hideous space wasters like backsides, legs, shoulders, and worst of all, elbows.
So, I’m sitting there holding my fork with my elbows tucked into my waistband, watching all these skinny mini servers zooming around with plates and trays, and thinking this dining experience was certainly conceived by someone very thin, which I am not. It reminded me of the day I paid way too much for a character breakfast at Disneyland; when Cinderella came by, she looked at my plate and commented in her sweet princess voice, “Oh, I hope you’re having something besides syrup for breakfast.” I didn’t say a word, just gave her a look that would have melted a Viking warrior’s axe.
I don’t think she’d run that fast since 11:59 the night of the ball. The Cinderella figure from my Disney Christmas village had its head broken off years ago, but I still put it out anyway, figuring she lost it when she married someone she hardly knew. That doesn’t work, even if you’re thin enough to fit in half a place setting.
Brazilian restaurants are often rather raucous affairs, and between the noise and being A. A. Milne’s “wedged bears in great tightness,” my daughter, Abby, kindly pointed out that it was all a bit much. Porter said, “If I were in the mood for a panic attack, this would be the place.” We all kept going back to the buffet, not so much for more food, but to pop ourselves out of the honeycomb and get the circulation back into our arms. That’s how Porter came to be filling his plate with sushi. “Mom, isn’t it weird that Brazilian restaurants always have sushi?” I looked at him a little surprised, suddenly remembering I’d had a whole life before I changed my name to “Mom.”
“That’s because São Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside of Tokyo,” I told him. They know I lived in Brazil, and I’ve clearly imparted my love of Brazilian food, but my children have no idea that Brazilians will lump all Asians into “that Japanese guy,” much like Americans will often categorize all Asians as “Chinese” and South Americans as “Mexicans,” which makes no sense at all. Sadly, my journals are all in my appalling cursive, which my children view as a secret language, so they’ll probably never learn of most of their mother’s adventures.
I returned to my seat and found my daughter had used the reprieve to take off her pretty pink raincoat, revealing that she and I were not only crammed like sardines, but wearing identical outfits. However, I didn’t have time to worry about that because the servers were bringing around meat on spits, which brought its own set of problems.
Brazilian food is delicious, just so you know, the beans and rice, salads, cheese bread, coxinhas, and of course, the MEAT. So much meat is produced in Brazil, that they have pretty high standards. In São Paulo even a low rent Chinese diner will bring out humble fried rice with the most tender, delectable chicken. At a Brazilian churrasco, meat is definitely the star, carried around the room on spit swords, straight from the flames, so fresh chunks can be cut directly onto your plate. Unfortunately, at our table, the customers where pretty much overlapping, which didn’t leave much space for the servers.
“Sorry to reach across you, Chase,” Porter said.
“That’s okay, I didn’t even see it,” Chase would reply dryly, mainly because Porter’s arm nearly covered Chase’s eyes every time the server brought over anything. Eventually we were laughing so hard, I don’t really remember what all I ate. I also forgot to properly grill Lauren’s almost for certain fiancé, but from what I could gather he seems to be a very nice, upstanding young man named Felipe. He’s from Chile, which is not in Mexico, and served as a missionary in Argentina, so I did manage to ask him about the differences between Chilean and Argentine Spanish, but he and Lauren were at the other end of the table, and the restaurant was so noisy that it was more conducive to panic attacks than the free exchange of information. I’ll have to corner him again when I can properly hear what he has to say, maybe at a nice little family dinner, with 50 or 60 of our closest relatives. It takes a brave man to sit that close to my family; it really is the deep end of the pool. I hope he’s a good swimmer.