NO 4

by Laura A H Elliott

Champagne and Shrimp in Brazil

We’d just had a baptism of sorts on the border between Brazil and Argentina at Iguaçu, the world’s largest waterfall system and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And, boy…were we hungry! Forget water protective ponchos, we wore our Brazilian bikinis on the rapids-riding speedboat to the base of the falls.

Bring. It. On.

A hike the day before to la garganta do diabo, the Devil’s Throat, at sunset sealed the deal. We couldn’t take our eyes off of the abyss of majesty and sheer force of nature. No longer satisfied with gazing at the most breathtaking sight we’d ever seen, we had to feel its water, its energy, move over our bodies. Allow it to heal us.

Together we took the adrenaline-charged speedboat ride to the base of its massive walls of water. Falls that had pounded the earth for millions of years, pounded over our skin. Ceaseless. In never-ending supply. Later that night, just when we thought the beauty of Iguaçu couldn’t get any more enchanting, we walked onto the terrace of the Hotel Cataratas under a nearly full moon. The roar of water provided the perfect soundtrack for our ringside seats––the falls bathed in moonlight.

What would we drink? Champagne, of course.

This was no romantic dinner. Simply two girlfriends having a good time feasting and celebrating a type of anniversary. But, none of the dinner’s opulence was wasted on us. We’d met as humble pilgrims in Spain on El Camino del Santiago. When my friend invited me to come visit her in Brazil, I jumped at the chance. She lived in the mountains outside of Säo Paulo. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be drinking champagne with her a year after we’d walked across Spain, beside one of the most awe-inspiring sights I’d seen on my travels to 23 countries on six continents. But there we were, her Thelma to my Louise.

We love food and found the menu full of as many amazing surprises as our friendship. Our mango shrimp appetizer wowed with mint, salts and chutney all blending together. The perfect pairing for our Domaine Chandon brut. Thelma ordered an incredibly moist baked salmon cured in molasses brine and served with banana gnocchi (one of my favorite pastas). I savored my seared Amazonian Pirarucu fish, called Arapaima, topped with banana in manioc crumbs. Discovering the beauty and excitement of the unexpected in life and in food is my passion.

In the end, Thelma and I found it almost impossible to leave what was now a sacred spot for us. We made a pact to travel to Iguaçu again. To revisit what had been born there––an invitation to overcome, to experience and be humbled by God’s many blessings, especially friendship, extravagant beauty and faith.