The Home Cook: Marcia Pires
Marcia Pires spoke a mix of Portuguese and English as she prepared her beans and rice. “My mom tried to teach me how to cook when I was little,” she said, this time only in English, “but I would say, ‘mom I’m going to America, they don’t cook there–they have maids.’” Now, decades later, Marcia and family have black beans and rice at least once a week, no maid required. Mom would be proud.
Black beans and rice with collards are a Brazilian staple, particularly in Rio Dejaneiro, Marcia’s hometown. Despite her best efforts not to learn from her mother, Marcia did indeed come away with a solid grasp of her country’s culinary basics while developing her own style. For example, unlike her mother who cooked the dish with bits of meat–”she would dry it herself by hanging it on the clothesline, and all the local kitty cats would watch it for days,” Marcia recalls–Marcia’s black beans and rice are vegetarian. Also, unlike her mom who always cooked the beans from scratch, Marcia will sometimes take a short cut with black beans from a can.
However, the bridge that connects the beans of both Marcia and her mom is the tempero, the mixture of onions, garlic, oil, and salt that Brazilian cooks use in almost everything. Marcia blends hers up in a mini-food processor for easy storage in the fridge to always have on hand.
For black beans and rice, the tempero is cooked until brown. Really brown. “Mom said get it really browned, but not burned. She had a way of cooking the tempero, always being aware of it and never burning it,” says Marcia. “For me, that’s not so easy.”