Joe David


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Friends unexpectedly received from me a postcard from Manaus, Brazil, of a scantily dressed Indian energetically dancing in a jungle clearing. The card read: Don’t I look great in my thong and tan? Ran out of money up the Amazon and had to go native to raise cash. The tourists love my show. See you soon, I hope!


My postcard brought instant response, because it struck a familiar cord of terror many travelers experience. What do you do when you run out of cash thousands of miles from home?
During my student days, it was commonplace, but I never fretted. My loyal parents always bailed me out. Since I only visited popular areas of the world, I made their job easy. Money transfers were often routine and quick. But what do you do when you don’t have parents to bail you out?


Since 1969, I had an American Express card. Over the years, I believed I had the ultimate weapon against fear. That all changed for me in Bangkok a few years ago while I was extravagantly spending a small inheritance in a few weeks. A shopkeeper told me a chilling tale about her friend who unexpectedly had her credit with American Express cut off. Frightened this could happen to me, I decided to protect myself by obtaining a Visa card also.


Armed with an American Express card, a Visa, some traveler’s checks, and sufficient cash in my checking account to cover most emergencies, I headed to Latin America for a fun-filled, devil-may-care holiday. Everything went well for me during the first two weeks. I felt totally protected and safe from any crisis – until I realized I was running out of cash, and I needed to write a check. In Salvador da Bahia. I experienced the first sign of panic when I discovered the American Express Office there had suddenly been closed. Assured by American Express in São Paulo that there was a full-service office in Manaus, my next stop on my Brazilian holiday, I gaily continued to spend. When I arrived in Manaus, I quickly discovered a new reality. The only American Express employee who could cash my check and turn my dollars into reais was on a fishing trip. To make matters worse, I couldn’t find an ATM machine that would accept my VISA card. Now what do I do?
Fortunately I survived. I lived off my credit cards until I reached Santiago, Chile, where there was a full-service American Express Office waiting for me. To raise money during the interim, I paid for the dinners of strangers with my credit card in exchange for cash. For someone as independent as I, this was an undignified way of obtaining money. Determined never to allow this to happen again, I turned to others, including my banker, for suggestions. Here are seven recommendations:


1. Always carry a credit card like Visa. It allows cash withdrawals world-wide against your card, and the money withdrawn is posted to your VISA account as a cash advance. To use an ATM machine to withdraw money, you will need to be assigned a PIN. If you forget to obtain a PIN, you can always go to a bank that accepts VISA, and show the bank your card and two picture identifications. On the Bank One and Chase credit cards, the transaction fee is about 3% or $10 minimum, which ever is greater, plus a small charge to use the ATM or bank service. (The maximum amount that you can charge to your account per day is $300.) For more information contact your credit card bank, or, if your card is issued by either Bank One or Chase, call (800) 436-7927.


2. Don’t leave home without an American Express Card. In most areas of the world, where there is a full-service American Express office, you have check cashing privileges. The amount of the check you may write varies, depending on the type of American Express card you have. Besides free check cashing privileges, American Express offers other services to its card holders. They include:
A. Those needing cash may go to any ATM machine around the world exhibiting the American Express symbol, enter a PIN and automatically withdraw money from your bank account. This service is called Express Cash (800/227-4669), and it can be set up anywhere in the world.
B. Optima Card holders may also use their card for cash. To obtain this cash advance, they will need a PIN. Interest is incurred immediately. With an Optima Card, the money is charged to your account up to $1,000 every 7 days to the full amount of your credit limit.
C. Emergency Global Assistance is available to card holders traveling more than 100 miles from home. In emergency cases, American Express will transfer money to a location nearest to you. This money will be charged to your credit account and treated like any charge, per the agreement on your account. No PIN or banking account backup is necessary. The amount is determined by the amount you will need to resolve your verifiable emergency. Call (800) 554-2639.
D. American Express has recently introduced the Travel Cheque Card. This is a pre-paid, reloadable card that can be used at any establishment worldwide accepting the American Express Card. There are certain limitations to the card, but generally it operates with the convenience of an American Express Credit Card. To obtain your balance, you will need to contact the customer service number on the reverse side of the card. For information, call (888) 412-6945.
E. Finally, American Express has a World Access Cash program, which is individually limited. Call American Express for details.


3. Another important card to have is a Diners Club or a Carte Blanche credit card. Both offer cash withdrawal up to $500 daily (with a $1,000 maximum weekly). The money is withdrawn at any (Cirrus) ATM system or any Citibank location world-wide. The charge for the money is a flat 4% of what you charge. For all such money transactions, you must have a PIN, and your withdrawal can’t exceed your club cash credit limit. For more information: (800) 234-6377.


4. For one of the cheaper ways to obtain cash, you will need an ATM card from your bank. With it, you can make direct withdrawals from your bank account at ATM machines that are connected to your bank, like Star Network, Visa, etc. (Check the back of your ATM card for details.) Note: If you withdraw directly from your bank’s ATM machine, you are not charged for the service, but if you withdraw from an ATM that services your bank, your bank will charge you about $2.00 and the ATM bank will charge you about the same for the use of the ATM (unless, of course, your bank has special arrangements with the ATM bank). For more details, consult your bank. This information was obtained from Bank of America at (800) 432-1000.


5. A quick way to send large sums of money to someone is by Western Union. For world-wide transfers, money needs to be sent between Western Union offices. This service is quick (usually within 30 minutes), and the charge for such a transaction will depend on the amount and the country (e.g., $500 to Bangkok, Thailand has a service charge of $43). Although such money transfers are expensive, they are reliable and efficient. The right circumstances could justify the high cost. Western Union permits a maximum transfer of $40,000 when using cash to send the money and $7,499.99 when using Visa, MasterCard or Discover credit card. Money is often just available to the receiver in the local currency. For more information, call: (800) 325-6000.


6. Another way to send money, regardless of the amount, is to have it sent through your bank. There is a flat fee of $16 for domestic and $38 for international transfers, and it takes about 2 to 3 days to send the money from one bank to another. There is no limit to the amount sent and the money must be transferred from account to account. Check with your bank for details. This information was provided by Chevy Chase Bank at (800) 987-2265.


7. Finally, in severe emergencies there’s always the nearest American Embassy or consulate office. The procedure is simple. The embassy or consulate will contact your relatives or friends on your behalf for assistance; if unsuccessful at reaching anyone, they will provide you with the money to return home, which you must pay back later.
Some tips to keep in mind:


A. Generally there is a nominal charge for the use of any ATM machine throughout the world. The amount varies, and in a few cases, ATMs are free. Also, interest starts building the moment you charge money to your credit card.
B. Credit card convenience checks may be used world-wide, but they are only cashed at the bank’s discretion.
C. It is strongly recommended that you let your credit card companies know of your travel plans before departing. Some credit card companies require this to be done before extending credit to you away from home.
D. With all ATM transactions, there is a cash limit per transaction, and the money is usually only available in the local currency.
E. You should avoid buying more foreign currency than you actually need. Some countries restrict the amount of currency they permit you to take when leaving the country.


Following these tips and suggestions may not provide 100% peace of mind the next time you climb a mountain or stroll through the jungle, but they should reduce some of the panic when your cash runs out.

Often photographed, the Copacabana in Rio has become the most instantly recognizable beach in the world. For many, this city within a city of shops, nightclubs, restaurants, theaters, and beach, is Rio. Although a little aged and somewhat tawdry from a few years of hard times, the Copacabana still has the look.


From morning to night, stunning bodies, scantily dressed, lie in the sun, play, swim, and prowl on miles of beach, which curves irresistibly in front of five-star hotels and luxury condominiums. Trendy nightclubs and restaurants in the Copacabana and its neighboring areas offer visitors the hedonistic pleasures they so relentlessly seek. If they have doubts, the friendly cariocas (locals), hawking everything from bird kites to themselves, will be happy to prove it to them.


The flipside to all this pleasure and luxury is the favela (shanty town). Known as Rocinha, the infamous slum climbs the mountain behind the Copacabana. Like the Copacabana, it too is a city within a city, but unlike the Copacabana, Rocinha is an overcrowded anthill of narrow streets and alleys with no sewers and deplorable health conditions. Inhabited by drug dealers and laborers, and threatened during the rainy season by landslides, it is hardly a picture postcard site. But gazing up at it from the Copacabana, it looks like an attractive and colorful mosaic amidst grey rock and green trees.


Observing Rio with outstretched arms, on a two-thousand-foot high summit, is the Cristo Redentor. The imposing, eye-catching statue of Christ reminds cariocas and visitors of Brazil’s deeply religious soul. Visible day or night from almost anywhere within Rio, the one-hundred-foot-high statue sits on its lofty pedestal (Corcovado) and, from its pinnacle, offers sightseers a breath-taking view of the Sugar Loaf and the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.


For those visiting Rio during carnival, the party begins promptly when the mayor gives the city keys to Rei Momo, the king of carnival and Lord of Misrule. From that moment on, until the start of Lent, it is one wild, supersonic, five-day, 24-hour blast off of sound and movement, a happy, devil-may-care kaleidoscope of colorfully costumed and painted party-goers – drinking and sinning non-stop.


Amidst all this partying is the music – a fusion of race and culture – from hip-to-hip forró to samba-rock. During Mardi gras, and throughout the year, the rhythmic sounds fill the air. But it is during carnival that the music reaches its crescendo, and the hottest musical fashions explode everywhere accompanied by floats and motion and song.


No matter when you visit, Rio is the place to be – for sun, fun, and, especially, food. Finding good food (and drink, from tropical fruit juices, suco, to Brazil’s personality-altering alcohol cachaça) isn’t difficult. Food is another Brazilian passion.


A large and ethnically diverse country, each region of Brazil provides food lovers with a special selection of food that is tastily seasoned without being too fiery. In parts of the south, for example, there is the German influence; in São Paulo, the Italian and Japanese influence; and in Bahia, the African influence. The most traditional foods, though, are adaptations of Portuguese and African recipes.


Most Brazilian cooking is home-style, done in a single pot, and served at room temperature, which makes it perfect for entertaining. For those who enjoy fire, molho apimentado (a table sauce) can be added. To truly enjoy the food and the spirit of the eating experience, the food should be shared with lots of people and with Brazilian music (preferably a samba) in the background.


Foods favored among visitors are: salgadinhos (small Brazilian pastries stuffed with cheese and meets), churrasco (barbecued meats and sausages prepared at an open fire), feijoada (a meat, beans and sausage stew), and cozido (meats and vegetables -usually squash, cabbage and kale – boiled together).
Many of the ethnic dishes popular in other parts of Brazil can be enjoyed in Rio. For a memorable dining experience in Rio, the following six restaurants are recommended. They are currently popular, but like all great cities this can change suddenly. Restaurants open and close, great chefs come and go, and what was isn’t and what wasn’t is popular. It is, therefore, recommended to ask the hotel concierge for the latest update before making your reservation. When planning your evening out, remember that cariocas like to eat late (after 9 p.m.), and food servings are usually huge, oftentimes sufficient for two. The restaurants listed below can be dressy, and for Americans, not unreasonably expensive.


Antiquarius (Portuguese), Rua Aristides Espinola 19, Leblon. Telephone: 2294 1496. Antiquarius is an elegant restaurant with mirror-lined walls and expensive furnishings. Reputed to be one of Rio’s best restaurants, the Antiquarius has won several awards for its versatile classic Portuguese menu, which includes such dishes as perna de carneiro (leg of lamb) and Cascais-style seafood with rice. On Sundays, it offers its jazzed-up version of cozido.
Cipriani (Italian), Copacabana Palace Hotel, Avenida Atlântica 1702, Copacabana. Telephone: 2545-8747. This superb restaurant in this legendary hotel is considered one of the best in Rio. In addition to Italian cuisine, the Cipriani, which overlooks the swimming pool, serves excellent vegetarian options. The food suits royalty.


Hotel Inter-Continental Rio, Avenida Prefeito Mendes de Morais 222, São Conrado. Telephone: 3323 2200. The Inter-Continental along with the Caesar Park Hotel (Avenida Vieiro Souto 460, Ipanema; telephone: 2525 2525) are popular on Saturday afternoons for feijoada, a Brazilian national dish. Made with black beans, feijoada is filled with a variety of dried, salted and smoked meats – and served with many extras, including slices of orange to reduce the consequences of eating beans.


Le Saint Honoré (French), Le Méridien Hotel, Avenida Atlântica, 1020, Copacabana Leme. Telephone: 3873 8880. Le Saint Honoré offers visitors French gourmet food (such as Amazonian pintado, mackerel) and a breathtaking panoramic view of the beach from the 37th floor. Some consider Le Saint Honoré the top restaurant in Rio, if not South America.


Porcão (Brazilian), Rua Barão da Torre 218, Ipanema. Telephone: 3202-9150. Porcão is popular with Rio’s rich and famous for churrascaria, a Brazilian barbecue. Diners choose as much as they think they can eat from the salad buffet, and from waiters who move around the restaurant carrying platters of beef, chicken, and lamb. You should begin your dinner with Brazil’s national drink caipirinha, a wicked mixture of sugar cane rum, brown sugar, and lime. Porcão has seven locations.



The Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures

Those eager to learn the art of Brazilian cooking should head to the Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures either by the ocean in Paraty or in the Minas Gerais mountains in Ouro Preto. Both schools are run by Yara Castro Roberts, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. A graduate in culinary arts from Boston University, art history from the Ecole du Louvre with a bachelor degree in education from the Sorbonne, Yara has the education to be the extraordinary gourmet cook/teacher that she has become. The daughter of a famous Brazilian chef and caterer, Yara has distinguished herself on her own in the Americas. She was featured in a video Brazilian Cuisine with Yara Roberts and was the hostess of a PBS series on important Brazilian cuisine and its cultural tradition. A lecturer at leading American universities, she has been written up in magazines and newspapers many times.
Dubbed an inexhaustible ambassador for food and other things Brazilians by The New York Times, she brings to each class she teaches the best of three worlds – French savoir-faire, Latin warmth, and American sensibility. Her cooking school program at both locations provides an introduction to gastronomy and some background information about the foods’ ethnic and regional connection to the traditions and history of Brazil.


The school in Ouro Preto (one hour by air to Belo Horizonte and another hour by car from Belo Horizonte) is located in a 17th century colonial, university town. During the gold rush in the 1700s, Ouro Preto became the richest city in the New World and the capital of Minas Gerais. Today it is a popular tourist area, which offers some of the world’s best preserved examples of colonial baroque architecture. Throughout the year, festivals and historical celebrations are held in the city.
The school in Paraty (three-and-a half hours by car from Rio) is situated in another colonial paradise. Founded in 1660, Paraty faces the sea, and is backed by mountains. During the rush for gold and diamonds in the 18th century, the city became famous and wealthy. Today it is a beautifully preserved seaside village with many mansions and estates, and narrow streets that contain hidden surprises: charming pousadas (inns), colonial houses, restaurants and art galleries. The village provides easy access to spectacular island beaches and mountain trails through rain forests that lead to waterfalls with natural pools.


Yara’s Minas Gerais program offers students seven days of classes filled with savory recipes and enriched with information on the history, art, music and literature as well as the local social customs. The classes include Minas Gerais cookery, Brazilian pastries, the Brazilian tradition of “high coffee,” and more. Some extras are a tour of Ouro Preto‚ the Baroque art museum and its architectural wonders, and the not-to-be-missed classical musicial performance of an outdoor Serenata.


The Paraty program includes boat trips and hill country visits to its core culinary experience. The three-day program offers students hands-on cooking, trips to a water-powered manioc flour mill, a hearts of palm plantation, and other pleasant distractions (candy making demonstrations and outdoor musical presentations, for example).


Price for the Ouro Preto program is now $2,295 per person single occupancy. This covers food and lodging for 6 days. Classes are held in May, September, and November.


The Paraty program costs $1,395 per person single occupancy. The price covers food and lodging for 3 days. Classes are held February through November.


Seminar participation is limited to 10 people. Sessions start on Sunday evenings in Ouro Preto and end on Friday afternoons, and in Paraty, they begin on Friday and end on Monday. Classes run three hours each day with fun-filled supportive activities afterwards. Program costs are exclusive of airfare and include transfers from airport to hotel, all sessions, events, field trips, print materials, hotel accommodations, breakfasts and gourmet meals.



Pork Roast Vila Rica Style

Pork Roast Vila Rica style is an elegant Minas Gerais dish, which is perfect for special occasions. It dates back to 1808 when gold was abundant and King Dom João VI of Portugal and his court relocated to Brazil (fleeing Napoleon). Elevated from a Portuguese colony to a commonwealth, Brazil was now able to obtain ingredients that were unavailable before like dried fruits, spices, and Porto and Madeira wines. The pork roast recipe is taught at Yara’s Ouro Preto school. It can be served with sautéed vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, and white rice.



4 lbs. pork roast, boned
4 limes
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons black pepper
7 ounces apricots
7 ounces ham
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strip
4 ounces carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch strip and cooked for 2 minutes
3 ounces olives, pitted
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups orange juice
2 onions, peeled and cut in 8 pieces



Trim all visible fat and slivers of skin. Butterfly the meat to create a rectangular shape. Cover the meat with wax paper and pound the meat till it is 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and lime juice. Cover and reserve (while preparing the ingredients)


Split the apricots in half and flatten them. Dry the meat with a paper towel and spread mustard over the pork, then cover it with ham. On top of the meat, arrange parallel lines of apricots, bell pepper, raisins, olives, and carrots. Press into the meat with your hands. Carefully roll the meat pressing down firmly.


Tie with a string. Heat oil in a cast iron pan and brown the meat on all the sides. Pour orange juice on the bottom of the pan, and add the quartered onions. Bake in the oven at 375º for 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, remove the string and cut into slices. Heat the pan juices and strain. Place onions on a side dish and the juice in a bowl. Serve the slices of pork with the juice and the onions. (Serves 8)

Amazon Style Fish

Amazon Style Fish is healthy, and it makes a fabulous presentation. No side dishes are needed, when serving this fish, since it made with tomato sauce, farofa, and bananas. Inspired by Amazon cooking, it came into vogue hundreds of years ago when the Portuguese colonized Brazil. The Indian women in charge of the cooking would wrap the food in banana leaves and grill it slowly on the moquém (similar to a barbecue, but made of a wood). The fish recipe is taught at Yara’s Paraty school.

3 lbs. whole yellow tile, or a grouper fish, boned and open into a butterfly (head and tail still attached) or six 8 ounce fish filets
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce or 1 Malagueta pepper crushed
1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered or a 16-ounce can of whole tomatoes
2 cups fish broth
4 bananas peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
3 cups manioc flour
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped

One 8-by-8-inch square banana leaf, if filet (found in South Asian food stores), or 6 banana-leaf squares for a whole fish.



Wash the fish thoroughly and pat dry. Spread salt, pepper, and lemon juice over the entire fish, then place it in reserve in the refrigerator.


In a medium-size saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onions over medium-low heat until they wilt. Then add the garlic and the chopped cilantro, mixing all ingredients together well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and their juices, and mix with the other ingredients. Add the fish broth and cook for 20 minutes over a low heat. Let it cool.


Heat oil and butter a in a skillet and fry the bananas 2 by 2 until light brown, then place on a plate.


In the same skillet heat the oil and butter over a low fire and sauté the garlic. Add the manioc flour by pouring it through your fingers into the skillet. Mix the flour and butter, while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Always mix ingredients gently. Cook until the flour becomes moist and lightly golden.


Place the fish on top of the banana leaves and open the fish. Using a spoon, cover the entire fish with the tomato sauce. Place over the fish lengthwise a mound of farofa (available in Latin American or Caribbean food markets). Sprinkle with Brazil nuts and press firmly into the fish with the hands. Place the fried bananas on top of the farofa and press gently. Carefully fold the fish toward the center. If using a whole fish, tie it with a string. Wrap the fish with the banana leaves. (If using the filet, close both sides with toothpicks.)


Place the wrapped fish in a baking dish, pour 1 cup of water on the bottom of the pan, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a 325 º preheated oven.


Open the banana leaves and serve with the remaining tomato sauce, farofa, and Malagueta sauce on the side. (Serves 6)