Cord Bailey stood in the doorway of the regional high school culinary arts dining room, aviator shades on, arms crossed. Tantalizing smells of chicken and bacon floated into the hallway. Inside the dining room the annual Brazilian American Friends lunch was taking place. Only 42 lucky students were granted access.
“Three years ago [when the event began] we were nervous and cautious about how the lunch would go,” recalled history teacher Elaine Cawley Weintraub, who helped organize the event held last Friday, the last day of school before Christmas vacation. “They thought Americans would not want to eat the food. Now it’s the hottest spot in town, with our own security guard.”
This year 21 Brazilian students invited 21 non-Brazilian students to join them for a sumptuous buffet lunch of traditional Brazilian fare.
This year’s lunch was organized by the One World Club, a group dedicated to building cultural bridges. Ohana Oliveira said when word got around that another luncheon was in the works, students were thrilled.
“They were saying, oh we love Brazilian food! What are you going to make? People were really excited about it,” she said.
Ohana, Sarah Inocencio and Cristiane Ramos were organizers and also cooks for the event.
“Every year it’s a little different, but it’s always about pride,” Mrs. Weintraub said. “These are foods Brazilian kids are proud of.”
Traditional Brazilian music played while the student organizers served steaming helpings of chicken salad, rice and beans to their fellow students. There were watermelon and mango juices, as well as jabuticaba juice, a tangy drink squeezed from grape-like fruits.
Cristiane’s favorite is the crispy coxinha — fried chicken and potato bites.
She said the best part of the luncheon was seeing all types of students enjoy the food of her country. Fellow Brazilian student Patryck Nascimento agreed.
“I have the most pride in seeing all the American and Brazilians together and happy as friends,” he said.
Isabella Hazell-El-Deiry, a guest and member of the youth leadership initiative, said the lunch gave outsiders a glimpse of Brazilian culture.
“It’s a way to get to know them better,” she said. “For me, they’re some of my best friends. But some people don’t know them so well. It can make conversation easier because you are in their element where they feel comfortable.”
Sarah serenaded the group with acoustic guitar and songs in Portuguese, while Rodrigo Honorato handed out pieces of cake.
“I’ve got to rep my country!” he declared. “I was born here but I’ve got my Brazilian roots.”
Mrs. Weintraub said the club hopes to host more events that bring together students of different backgrounds.
“We have this wonderful, vibrant community in the school and it’s time we get to know it better,” she said.