This morning I'm doing my morning market walk (only Saturdays and Sundays the market is bigger and busier and I get to linger for as long as I want) and I stop by the material ladies who "our seamstress" goes to to get some dark material to cover my windows (so much light comes in I can't sleep in). They have a wooden disply table filled with fabrics and one sits on top of the display in a little chair that is cut into the wood - so it looks like she is on the same level as the material - while the other runs and gets things in the house, measures, etc. They are extremely gracious and I wave to them down their alley every morning when I pass.
Last week, the one who sits on the display made quite an effort to talk to me. With very little English, she communicated that she wanted me to know that I had a friend in Vietnam, and if I ever needed anything, she would help me with all of her heart. She is about my age, and very beautiful.
While I am in the midst of my purchase this morning, this woman (I will know her name by tonight) asks me if I have eaten yet (they say "have you eaten rice?" for every meal). I tell her 'no' and ask her what I should eat. She thinks about this, but before I put too much stress on her like I did to Nam, I ask her about the woman sitting across from her in the alley: she sells (what looks like) marinated salmon in a big metal bowl.
She nods that it is good and I make a motion that I will buy a fillet. Fabric Woman looks shocked. She pantomimes..."You mean...you are going to buy something that you have no idea how to cook!!?" I can tell she is kind of impressed. She gets out of the display seat and comes over. She and the salmon woman go through all of the steps necessary to cook this fish, but she is not satisfied. She grabs my hand and leads me into her kitchen (most of their shops are right outside their houses). She points to sugar, salt and some kind of seasoning that looks like salt but isn't. You cook this in oil and you add just so much of this and so much of this, but not too much.
She sends me next door to the shop that sells the seasoning and when I return with the correct ingredient, she and the salmon lady, once again, go over all of the steps. Make sure you just use this much of this seasoning, or it will taste very bad!! I can tell she doesn't have faith that I can pull it off. She climbs back into her chair, thinks for a moment, then asks me what time I plan to cook it. Ah ha. Is this going where I think it is? I say I don't know. She says that if it's at a time that she is free, she will help me.
It's one of those moments. One of those really really good moments. She is free at five. She knows where I live. She tells me to be sure to pick up cucumbers and tomatoes to go with it.
I'm having my first Vietnamese cooking lesson at five!
Then I do my shopping and stop by Nam's sister's house to buy eggs. Today, however, she is aslo selling fishcake sandwiches and three of the girls from the Bum Bum are there ordering them. "Hi!" they say, and they all giggle. Then Nam's daughter shows up. She says "Hi!" and giggles, too. Today, away from her shop and her father, she seems much more comfortable. Then she, Nam's sister, and the three Bum Bum girls all show me how to stack my sandwich: with tomatoes, cilantro and hot sauce. They wrap it for me and with about six full bags of vegetables and squid and rice puddings, I head back to the castle. T and K have both been sleeping while I've had my "Number One" morning. I try to think who I can tell, and am relieved to remember that I can just tell my blog. Funny, huh?
Stay tuned. Pictures of cooking lessons to follow later tonight!