A Coruja: Dispatch from Brazil – Méqui 1000
The Owl (“a coruja” in Portuguese) is at her southern home in Guaecá, which is just about her favorite place on the planet. A Coruja is taking over the Owl for a week or so to give readers a look at something other than New England. Scroll on by if you have no interest.
Since selling our São Paulo house, our branch of the Owl family rents Airbnbs when we need to fly through São Paulo on our way to other Brazilian adventures. We’ve had some truly bizarre ones including one so filled with giant Portuguese-influenced heavy wood furniture we could not turn around, and then one where we were not actually allowed to sit on one of the three chairs in the living room. After the last one, we decided to stay to upgrade to hotel life at the Central Park Jardins, a small old hotel near Avenida Paulista, one of the postcards for Brazil.
Avenida Paulista is where 11 million people would have gone to celebrate a Brazil World Cup win. It is where protests against the government have taken place, celebrations and parades of all kinds shut it down, and where you can spend a pleasant Sunday morning when the avenue closes for pedestrians. And it is the spot where you can find the 1000th McDonald’s franchise in Brazil, which opened in 2019, the so-called “Méqui 1000.”
One of the most endearing things about Brazilian Portuguese is the pronunciation of certain “hard stop” words of other languages–there is no such thing as a hard stop in Portuguese. Ping-pong becomes “pingy-pongy”, tic-tacs are “chicky-tackies” and “feedback” is “fee-jee-backy.” No, I am not making this up. So McDonald’s, which can be Mickey D’s for Americans who like shortcuts, becomes just Méqui (“Meckie”) in Brazil. The number “1000” is “mil” in Portuguese so it seems very much that you are saying “Mecky Meal” here, which makes me happy in its perfection.
My big question here is how can this country with access to the best and freshest food (fresh-squeezed orange juice, just-off-the-tree mango, pão de queijo, seafood, sushi, etc etc) actually like McDonald’s and open a 1000th (!!!) restaurant? This is bizarre. Even with special menu items (yay, a burger with pão de queijo bread–ummm, no), I cannot fathom why one would go to this burger joint rather than any roadside padaria (bakery). I can’t get over it. Brazilians are confusing.
In any case, we passed by this Méqui 1000 several times on our way to and from our hotel. In the daytime, the veranda and patio were full, the “instagrammable store” finding some business. The old mansion is gorgeous (it most recently had been a bank, which seems to be the way many old buildings go, hello Cambridge Trust). What feels right–Chicken McNuggets being sold in a mansion’s dining room, or checking accounts for all? This answer will remain elusive as we did not go into any iteration of the place.
Once evening fell, so did snow. I’m not kidding again. Real snow shot out of some cannons at the top of the building (dear HKD snowblowers, you have some work to do here in Brazil). Sort of slushy snow but I’ve skied on worse in the northeast. Photos all around.
You can’t make this stuff up. And in Brazil, you don’t have to.