Monday, January 15, 2007

Frying Fish

Well, many of you have been very gracious in your encouragement to me about how I’ve adjusted to life in India. For the most part, I have received that humbly, but no longer. I have taken a few monumental steps that have caused me to lay aside all humility and announce with pride that I Am Brave!

All of these events occurred surrounding having dinner guests – Malayalee friends from the US, JohnnyUncle & MollyAunty, Jim & Leena’s parents. We were having them over for dinner and I wanted to make Erachi (beef) Curry – which I’ve made before - and Kerala Fish Fry – which I’ve never attempted. Well, of course we were out of beef and I’ve never bought fish before. So begins the adventure.

Our normal beef shop is foreigner-safe, meaning that although there is probably all sorts of grotesqueness going on in the back, the customer never sees it. You call ahead your order and then you pick it up in little packets, all ready to go. Well, as nice as that is, they are a good distance from us (meaning I can’t walk there) and they have funny hours. So, it was time to go local.

Stephanie and I wheeled the boys into a shop called “Best Cold Storage,” which advertised that it has beef, mutton, dry fish, etc. (We then wheeled the boys out because the flies were so bad.) Other than the flies, the shop looked safe, and I told the boy at the counter that I wanted “2 kgs beef cubed.” He then asked me some questions I didn’t understand, to all of which I alternately repeated, “Beef.” “Cubed.”

He told me to go on in and have a seat, so I headed around the counter, squealed at the sight of my beef hanging from the ceiling still attached to a skeleton, drew some funny stares, and went back out to wait with Sy and the flies.

After this day, I thought, “I have arrived. I am in India. I am buying beef off a skeleton to make curry. I think I have done it all.”

Well, the next day it was time to buy fish. My neighbor Miranda offered to take me to her fish shop, which she assures me is the best because it is clean and run by Malayalees. I assured her I was up for a walk, and we hoofed it across town (at least it felt like it was across town) to the fish shop.

(I don’t even go to the fish department of Kroger at home because I don’t like to see eyes looking at me. I buy my seafood at restaurants already prepared or in fishstick form, or if I’m feeling adventurous, in vacuum-sealed frozen packets from Trader Joe’s.)

Well, I am most proud of the fact that I stood in the shop, ordered fish, and didn’t throw up or burst into tears. I stood there and watched as they “cleaned” (I don’t know what that means – it doesn’t look clean) my fish and chopped it up, and threw all of it, including the heads, which my mother-in-law would say is the best part, into a sack for me to walk home.

Thankfully, Lakshmi was there to help me actually clean the fish, and I prepared a masala for it, which I had to rub into the fish. Gross. Lakshmi saw me throwing away the heads and so she took those home to cook. Gross.

Well, now I think I’ve arrived. I’ve bought fish. I’ve bought beef. And, I’ve turned them into pretty delicious (so I’m told – I still don’t really like Indian food) menu items.

Yes, of this week, I am proud!

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