new Things I Ate in Cambodia: fish maws?

Monday, February 11, 2008

fish maws?

Image from here: barracuda.

I have always loved interactive food. I am a monkey relation (aren't we all?) and I enjoy picking things apart, dismantling animals that were formerly living. I love boney food, food rife with complexities - sucking marrow out of bones, tenderly lifting fish bones out of the gaps between my teeth with my tongue (delicate, softly now - the bones get into your intestines, kill you, end your life.), chewing the crunchy hard membrane off pork ribs (done for, I don't throw them under the table like I would have in medieval times.) I like food that requires some measure of skill and intuition to eat, calories that do not come easily - I abhor rice pudding, mashed potatos, milkshakes, things a toothless degraded person could easily consume. I want my food to puzzle me.

I have good memories of food like this.

When I was very little taking apart racks of ribs crispy and smoked, off the grill, fingers covered in black soot and flecks of barbeque sauce, pork that has died for my sins, caught in my teeth, inflaming my gums and so worth it. (The dentist yells at me afterward, foists floss threaders into my hands, bad bad bad!)

Chili crabs: Chunks of sea creature, hacked apart with malice, wok-fried with bright red sauce, chilis so fragrant they smoke out the house and make the smoke-alarm wail, eaten with hands, viciously. My eyes cross, carnivorous, I pretend I am a pie-dog hiding under a dock, chewing apart crab carcasses (as if my life depended on it.)

Fish: Ginger scallion fish, big scaled head that is covered in tasty, silken parts, drifting in sesame oil and chunks of jalapeno. I take apart the maw, and it slips out of it silken scaly fat, tiny teeth glinting under flourescent lights - I take its jaw in my jaw, scrape its teeth against my own teeth, we are coming together, fish and I (but he is devoured and I remain, with bad breath.)

Crawdads: There's yellow gunk in the heads, in Lousiana they say it is the best part, you snap them apart at the midsection, little red jewel bodies, and slurp out the brains (take their essence into yourself, their minor crawdad hopes and dreams), throw them away and take another. Someone is throwing beads and drinking beer and you are sucking heads - that sounds so dirty.

Lamb bones: they come out in a big vat at the dark wooden Chinese table, the businessmen who have adopted me smiling as they steam up to the ceiling. The fat one draws a green evil bottle of baijiu, chinese liquor out of his coat, pours me a glass - he takes the lamb knuckle in his chopsticks, gnaws it contented, and I join them. We spit out the bones in tandem onto the table and get drunker, drunker, giggle like fools amid the skeletons.

Pomegranates - Babur said they were the world's best fruit, spoke of the merits of the pomegranates of Turfan and Samarkand, how his men grew punch-drunk on their seeds and on wine - I think of them sitting on overstuffed cushions and smoking opium whenever I eat one. You can soak them to get all the seeds out and make it easy on yourself, but I find that a fool's errand, debasing - I like to spend a happy hour communing with a pomegranate, a roll of paper towels by my sides, blood red jewel juice spurting up onto the ceiling and the floor - I'll clean up afterwards, for now I am content.

And it could go on and on - chicken wings and soft osso bucco marrow, rack o' lamb and soup dumplings (careful now, they will squirt you in the eye), chestnuts that must be smashed, garlic cloves encased in perfumed paper - this is why I eat, I suppose, because I am easily bored.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious!!