I do a lot of Portuguese dances.
Not authentic ones, like the chamarrita. Made-up ones.
I have the Portuguese cleaning lady dance. That’s where I take an old towel, soak it in a solution of XX, drop it on the floor, step onto it and dance across the kitchen floor, scrubbing with my sliding steps.
I have the Portuguese breadmaking lady dance. That’s where I use a technique I’ve seen a number of Portuguese women do: bring bread dough together and when it’s time to knead, don’t just do the knead and fold technique. SLAM it. I do it right on the counter, picking up the ball of dough and slamming it down until the dishes in the cupboard jump. Slam, push, fold. Slam, push, fold. Slam, push fold. Some people do a kneeling version: They put the dough in an enameled metal basin, placed the basin on the floor, knelt next to it, drafted one or the other of the kids to hold the basin down and . . . SLAM!
Another Portuguese lady dance was washing clothes. We had a machine but it was an old-fashioned wringer style, so the dance was start something through the wringer, turn the crank, pull the clothes out the other hand, arrange the clothes evenly in the washer. Repeat. Our washer also did a dance of its own. When Grandma turned the motor on, it hula’d across the concrete floor of the washhouse, so the Portuguese lady dance came in when you went out every few minutes to push the washer back in place before it trapped itself against the door or made it all the way to the step and fell out the door.
Today, I realized was doing a contemporary Portuguese lady dance, the Portuguese shopping lady dance, moving from store to store, seeking out items particular to each store. It reminded me of Grandma’s weekly shopping excursions in Wailuku before there was a supermarket on Maui. We’d go from the butcher to the fish shop to Yokouchi Bakery to Maui Dry Goods for canned things. Produce we got either from our yard, from barter with friends or from the man who had a horsedrawn cart (I’m not kidding and I’m not 100 years old, either; there really was a man with a horse) that meandered up Vineyard Street behind our house. So that was more steps in the dance once a week.
I have to admit that I enjoy the Portuguese cleaning lady dance. I LOVE the breadmaking dance. I’m glad I don’t have to do the clotheswashing dance. But I really wish I didn’t have to do the shopping dance. In our now expanded household, with a daughter who is gluten-intolerant and largely vegetarian, it’s gotten even worse. Today I wanted gluten-free pasta; jarred tahini (sesame paste) because the more widely available tinned stuff hardens into concrete and separates; a hot sauce to which we’ve all become addicted, Chalula; the particular treats our younger cat likes (yes, the cats count); Silk creamer in the original flavor. I couldn’t think of a single store where I could get it all, even if I drove a bit. Bummer. I’ll give Safeway Pali points: They had Maranatha tahini, the treats in large bags and Silk creamer (but only in French vanilla flavor, not my daughter’s favorite, but tolerable). But I have to go to Foodland for Chalula.
And gluten-free pasta (quinoa pasta is delicious, by the way)? I have searched in vein for this item in conventional grocery stores here. No luck, you have to go to a “health” food store — Down to Earth, Kokua Co-op or Whole Foods. But have you looked at the supermarket pasta aisle lately? They have cheap American pasta, expensive imported Italian pasta, whole wheat flour, high-protein/low carbohydrate pastas, pastas made with vegetable, high-fiber pastas. Remember when it was just Mission macaroni and spaghetti and those old Creamettes (my age showing again). Supermarket pasta buyers of Honolulu: Boooooo.
If the Portuguese food shopping dance was anything like that of my childhood, I’d enjoy it more. We’d dress up — Grandma in a dress and hat, even — and take my grandfather’s boat-size Packard with its gray flannel upholstery and birds-eye maple dashboard. We’d drive the three blocks to Market Street at a dignified pace, Grandma’s small form barely visible over the steering wheel, and park. Then we’d walk up and down the street and up Vineyard a bit and get everything we needed except the dry goods. Those we’d find at Yamamoto’s on Lower Main. And we’d end at Dairy Queen for a chocolate covered cone or a dilly bar (which cost, I think, a dime each then). Now THAT was a fun dance. Driving in traffic, searching for parking, negotiating crowded store aisles, handing over half your paycheck? Not so much.