Janete's Midnight Cabyard Kitchen

Janete serves up a plate for a late-night customer.

Janete serves up a plate for a late-night customer. Laura Folger hide caption

itoggle caption Laura Folger
Janete, Marcello (the singer)  and Pedro.

Janete with her husband, Pedro (right), and Marcello, who often sings with the customers. Laura Folger hide caption

itoggle caption Laura Folger

Talking Recipes

Learn how to make tasty food from Goiânia:

It was Janete's Cabyard Kitchen that inspired the Hidden Kitchens series, and a new book, Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes and More, about out-of-the-way, guerilla-style foodmakers who serve fervent patrons. Here's a taste of what first drew us in.

Story Notes: The Cabyard Kitchen

A lot of Kitchen Sisters stories are born in taxicabs. In fact, the Hidden Kitchens series was conceived in the back of a Yellow cab. Davia lives in San Francisco and hates to drive. She started noticing that every time she got into a Yellow cab, the driver was from Brazil. And they weren't just from Brazil; they all seemed to be from the same town: Goiânia. Inevitably, these cab ride conversations turned to music and food.

That's when the story of Janete emerged, a woman from their same hometown, who comes every night to an abandoned industrial street outside a cab dispatch lot to set up a makeshift, rolling night kitchen — hot salgadinhos, bollinhos, pão de quejo. She cooks the food of home. By dawn, Janete and her blue tarpulin tent are packed up and gone.

One night around midnight, we decided to go in search of Janete's secret cabyard kitchen. A driver had given us a sketchy map and told us to park in the cab lot and walk from there.

"Just look like you know where you're going," he said, assuring us no one would notice we didn't work for the company.

The fact that we weren't drivers seemed pretty obvious, though — neither of us is from Goiâna, and no other cabbies in sight were wearing headphones and packing 10 pounds of recording equipment. Still, we walked through the fleet of parked cabs, past the graveyard-shift mechanic working on a taxi up on racks, past the checkout point — an—out onto a street in the middle of nowhere.

There, under a streetlight and a small blue tarp, four drivers were laughing, huddled over big plates of food, eating and talking in Portuguese. Brazilian music spilled out of a parked cab. Janete, shy and smiling, presided — a vision of what our "hidden kitchen" idea is all about.

Story Credits

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva) with Laura Folger.

Associate producers: Kate Volkman and Maria Walcutt.

Mixed by Jim McKee.

Translation by Susan Maria Howard.

Special Thanks To:

Maria Janete de Moraes and Pedro Milhomen; all the Yellow Cab drivers from Goiâna Brazil who told us about Janete's Cabyard Kitchen — in—uding Marcello Ribeiro and Marco Coelho.

All the Brazilians cooking salgados at Mr. Pizza Man who told us about Sertaneja music; Tuca for the music; Mercado Brazil; Kevin North at Sunset Soccer Supply; and photographer Robert Gumpert, all in San Francisco.

Along the Road: Music in the Air

The Cabyard Kitchen is a great place to eat and hang out. You never know who might be there. There are cab drivers from Goiânia; cousins of cab drivers from Goiâna; cab drivers from Russia, Iran, San Mateo; kids pouring out the nightclubs in the outer Mission; couples from Morgan Hill catching dinner before a movie; and musicians.

And every night, there is music in the air. Sometimes it's Sergio, singing the latest track from a CD he was cutting in a local studio; sometimes Marcello brought a guitar; sometimes a driver would pull up in his yellow cab, park, open the door and crank up his radio so the sound of Gal Costa would fill the street.

When we started asking about the music of Goiânia we were led into a whole new world. Sertaneja is the big thing. It's sort of the Nashville Sound of Brazil. Country, but highly produced, jacked-up pop with driving rhythms. Some of the stars of the Sertaneja sound are Leandro & Leonardo, Rick & Renner, Zezé di Camargo & Luciano, Chitãozinho & Xororó. To hear a sampling of the music, try the Sertaneja Music Internet radio site.

Also, we couldn't resist including a cut from yellow cab driver Sergio Pedroso's CD: Somos Assim. He autographed the cover for us on the street at about 2 in the morning at Janete's kitchen one night when the street was bumping.

While we were searching for the right music for this story we also came across a beautiful Brazilian CD: Brazil Forró: Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers. Forró isn't the sound of Goiânia — it's from th—Northeast — but no matte— it's music we loved discovering and want to pass along.

We're also including a full version of the music that runs under the scene on the street with the musicians at Janete's. It's from Cyro Batista's CD, Vira Loucos: Cyro Baptista Plays the Music of Villa Lobos. We've been sitting on it since we began our Lost & Found Sound project for All Things Considered in 1999. Kazunori Sugiyama and Jim Anderson in New York gave it to us then as one of the more unusual recordings they had been involved in creating. We've loved it ever since and been hoping to use it in a story. Finally, we did.

Improvising a Dream

There is an endless flow between Goiânia and San Francisco — of—abbies, food, and conversation; of people trying to make enough money here to support their families there. Or make enough here, to go back and make it there.

But they all wait for Janete because she's one of their own — and the food she cooks keeps them connected to what they left, and to the road ahead.

In San Francisco, Janete is still struggling to go from running an improvised street kitchen to her dream of owning a catering truck and growin her business.

But in the process, she has already made an impact on the way people live. Cab drivers — not only Brazilians but also people from all over — have built their nights around the food and the fun Janete's makeshift kitchen provides.

Historian Donna Gabaccia comments on immigrants and their food culture in her book We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans (Harvard Univ. Press):

"I've studied international migration all my scholarly life and I became interested in food as a scholarly project because I was looking for ways to study the fashion by which foreigners and immigrants who had come to the United States have altered the U.S.

"Normally when we think about the immigration story, we think about how immigrants become Americans and how they change and how they are transformed by the encounter with us and with other Americans. But it was always clear to me that the United States has always also changed and Americans and American culture have also changed in response to immigration. And it just occurred to me that food was one area where that transformation of the whole country by the newcomers arriving was particularly obvious."

Music Credits

  1. "Agepê, Ela Nao Gosta De Mim" from O Samba, compiled by David Byrne.
  2. "Passion in the Basement" and "Ama/Teresinha de Jesus" from Vira Loucos - Cyro Baptista plays the music of Villa Lobos.
  3. "Galos de Briga" by João Bosco.
  4. "Fuló de Junco" From the soundtrack album, Baile Perfumado um filme de Paulo Caldas e lírio Ferreira.
  5. Hidden Kitchens theme music: Excerpted from the group Czokolm's "Eddig Veneg," intertwined with the electric violin of Wieslaw Porgorzelski. Mixed by Jim McKee.

Web Resources

Books Featured In This Story

Hidden Kitchens

Stories, Recipes, and More From NPR's the Kitchen Sisters

by Nikki Silva and Davia Lee Nelson

Hardcover, 278 pages | purchase

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Title
Hidden Kitchens
Subtitle
Stories, Recipes, and More From NPR's the Kitchen Sisters
Author
Nikki Silva and Davia Lee Nelson

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Purchase Featured Music

Vira Loucos: Cyro Baptista Plays the Music of Villa Lobos

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Vira Loucos: Cyro Baptista Plays the Music of Villa Lobos
Artist
Cyro Baptista
Released
1997

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Brazil Forró: Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers

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Purchase Featured Music

Album
Brazil Forró: Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers
Artist
various
Released
1992

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