Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Post 10: short, less good than 9, and a holdover till tomorrow's 11
Day 8, morning: --TMI ALERT-- : --TMI ALERT-- Henceforth no TP. Details on request.
Day 8, breakfast/lunch: I leave my guest house and discover that it’s right along the river and a nice walk to the central market, where I find an awesome array of food possibilities. I begin with a fried pomfret (sweet and very yummy) -- picture went up yesterday and i can't seem to retrieve it -- and a bowl of rice and 5 or 6 chilis, which is a very nice way to defibrillate your day.
Inside the market (which is densedensedense – photo to follow), I sample a bunch of munchies: somewhat candied olives and unpleasant round fruits; various pickles, sort of chinese-style; some dried banana flakes and tamarinds which I can’t figure out how to eat (don’t bite through the latter unless you want your tongue soured to a crisp); and some tasty deep fried stuffed hot peppers, cauliflower, and green beans with a spicy dipping sauce. Eventually I also get 4 small grilled whole unscaled ungutted river fish; I’m not sure if I was supposed to eat the skin and scales, but they didn’t suit me so much. The flesh was pretty tasty (and healthy for a change) and I’m learning how to deal with the infinity of pin bones: you chew and chew back near your molars, and the fish will flake off leaving the bones behind. (I’m only trying this because at the $2.50 Malaysian place I used to go to deep off Canal street, I’d see worker guys put nearly a whole fish in their mouths at once, masticate/whorl it around for a minute and then take a ball of de-fished bones out of their mouths at the end. Amazing.)
It’s very pleasant walking around here. Traffic is light, people are friendly when I acknowledge them, there are definitive non-tourist places just off where all the honkies congregate (and where I go check email and post these rather Western blogs), and there’s interesting food everywhere. I’m supposed to be here for the temples, but first I have to catch up on the writing (and sleeping, which is going better) and eat a few more things, then I’ll be ready for some high culture. All the final papers from my two classes were due today, so I had a lot of grading and stuff to do as well, so most of my day was spent in an internet café. I took a break though to have a shredded papaya salad – one of my faves, and this one with small crab legs and claws (in the shell) pounded up into it – interesting addition, though not necessarily preferable.
At the center of the central market, I also make a nice discovery: first thinking that I’m seeing little slices of dried sausage (a guaranteed must-buy), I realize it’s actually betel nut -- which I chewed in India and wasn’t really fond of if it wasn’t rolled in a paan. But by association that helped me realize therefore that the small, clear unmarked bag of almost black-colored shredded what-I-thought-was seaweed was actually tobacco, perhaps akin to that smoked by Solomon on the ferry (one note: the only betel-chewer I’ve seen here so far was a beggar grandmother. So if the same stand sells loose tobacco, it might well be grandpa’s skankweed). Of course I buy a bag, and luckily I had brought papers in case I ever wanted to roll my pipe tobacco into cigarettes (I know how effective smoking can be as a social device – dammit, maybe I’m not that shy). So I “spin” up one of these (in my bro’s lingo), fire it, and good god, _that_ is some strong tobacco. Gauloises’ patented dry-roasted dogshit flavor has nothing on my Cambodian’s local smoke. Not even inhaling, I’m airborne within a few puffs. It’s stronger even than I remember beadies in India to have been (though I will certainly confirm in a few weeks); the only comparison I have is with some cigarettes from Russia I had in college; they had a super dark tobacco packed entirely into the first third of the smoke (that’s how they came in the pack) and the other two thirds of the cigarette was just a cardboard tube. The tobacco in that front third was so tight it was almost like a brick, then you’d smoke it and it was rough and rugged and harsh but super flavorful. Bro, I have to think Clint’s cheroots – or at least the soggy butt-ends that il brutto smoked – must have tasted something like this. Apparently in Burma you can buy single cheroots in the tea houses; i intend to sample many.
Day 8, dinner
Finally it’s dinner time and the macho theme continues to prevail. I happen to get, independently, two components of a truly masculine meal. The first is what was called on the box “Muscle Wine,” i.e. the local liquor, which I feel it’s my duty to try. I’ve had the Vietnamese Mekong whiskey; this is darker colored, as you can see, like a Gosling’s Rum and tastes like black liquorice (not anise-y but like black twizzlers) – surprisingly ok. The other half of my man’s meal, as I’m sure you noticed above, is Satan from the garden of eden, this time strung up as he deserved and put over charcoal, basted with local flavors and grilled till tough.
Lucifer doesn’t go easily. I can barely get my teeth through the skin, and then it almost seems like it’s full of bones (it’s the internal structure of the snake that allows it its movement) and firm fatty bubbles like the pigskin bits you find in Portuguese sausage. It would be worth it, but the flavor again is quite new, and this time less welcome, sort of musty and funky and gamey, the way I’d imagine opossum would taste (though god knows I might soon find that out too).
I ultimately have very little of either of my male enhancers, probably good since I couldn’t be more stag, and the 37-yr-old French librarian, whose name I noticed on the guest register just above mine, tragically checked out this morning. Quelle dommage (craigslist.fr rencontres perdus?).