Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Night Cooking by Headlamps, Flashlights,Candles and Ukeleles

Amy T, Sue has stepped into my neighborhood and into my shoes. Yesterday morning, we stop by Thuy and Thanh's to say hello (every morning, of course) and Sue tells them she will come back to choose some material for a skirt. That's the last I know. I get on the back of Nam's bike and go to school.

In the afternoon, I hear about her day: After leaving me, she goes back to T and T's. They help her with material. They ask her how long she is staying. They ask her if she wants to cook Friday night. They make a shopping list for her. She is holding the list doing something in the market when Guess Who with the Sixth Sense shows up and within seconds grabs the piece of paper out of her hands and reads it. He takes her to his family's house, and they make a plan to go shopping in the market Friday morning (today).

(So when I get home from school, Sue asks (quite innocently): "Um, is it OK if we cook with Thuy and Thanh Friday night? Nam's mother is going to take me shopping.")

A bit later, she pantomimes to Nam that she is looking for a tailor to get some clothes made. He pulls out a card - one that he put in his wallet way back in October - of a seamstress I used once (Alice's) waaaaaayyy across town. Sue was actually searching for a local tailor and doesn't know this one is waaaayyyyy across town until she is on the back of Nam's bike forever. They put in the order at the tailor's, then Sue gets a Nam Tour of Chinatown. She says he knows everyone. They have coffee with a friend of his. He burns incense and bows to a Buddhist altar (remember that his family is Christian). He shows her around the shops. She says, "Are you sure he isn't Chinese?" This throws me a little.

Well, we find out all kinds of things about Nam that evening...but that is a post I will be writing tomorrow.

As for today...we wake up to no power - again. We get ready in the dark, but I tell Sue to flip the breaker in about half an hour and it should be no problem. After walking the morning market with me, she meets Nam's family for the shopping trip. She thinks they are just going to shop in our market, but Nam tells her to get on the bike, and Nam's sister Mai gets on the back of her son Minh's bike. They drive for about ten minutes and arrive at a huge food market. Sue says it's amazing to watch Mai negotiate her way through the produce - she picks something up, haggles over it, puts it back and gets a better one. She and Mai take care of the list, and Nam and Minh push their bikes beside them, they are there to carry the bags.

They buy pork and prawns and greens and twenty other things. They come back, they go to the actual #1 Breakfast Place, etc. etc.


When I get home, I can't believe it. They power is still off. T and T are coming at 5 to cook, and it is hot. Muggy and yucky. No fans, no light. Nam tries to help, but ends up showing Sue and me that we need to WASH the greens. The Repeater shows us five times. Our neighbor Henry, the one who pays our bills every once in a while to save us (he is a part of the Grandfather Who Makes His Granddaughter Laugh Family - I know "Henry" doesn't sound like a Vietnamese nam), calls the electric company. He says they will come within two hours.


Meanwhile, T and T come and we put all of our flashlights, headlamps and candles together (yes, Brian, mine aided in the ripping off of shrimp heads) and go to work on dinner. Henry sees what we are up to a brings a huge flashlight. Tarn brings his ukelele down to provide cooking entertainment and T and T's niece and nephew, Tu and John (we call him Monkey Boy -he's the one who drank the beer at Tet) show up. So it's all of us, Katherine, Tarn, Sue, Monkey Boy, Tu, Thuy, Thanh and me, cooking and playing and running around by candlelight. Yes, it's as cool as it sounds. (Sweaty, however.)

We make my favorite: pork/taro spring rolls, battered squid and prawn crackers. All of the grease is rolled up into the fresh greens to give it a crunch and an almost-healthy feel.

Right when dinner is ready, the electric guys come and say we need a new breaker. Henry is there to translate, and he and Tarn get on the bike to go to the shop to get a new one. Sadly, T and T don't stay to eat after all of their work: Monkey Boy is all wound up and must go to bed. This leaves only Sue, Katherine and me to eat all of this food ourselves. By the end of the evening, by about 9:00, the power is finally back on, allowing us an air-conditioned sleep.

I know what you are thinking. T and T "only want to cook with Katherine, Tarn and Maggie." I don't understand it either. But as for Sue, she is hooked on Saigon, and apparently, they are hooked on her; in just four days she has become one of us. I don't know how she will say goodbye to Nam, Minh, Thuy, Thanh, and all of the other people in "our" neighborhood. They really know how to take care of us.

6 comments:

Amy T. said...

Struggles, trials, darkness, humidity, long bike rides, new breakers...

and yet "Tarn brings his ukelele down to provide cooking entertainment".

I'm still laughing out loud... alone in my office.

I want a Tarn/minstrel giving a melodic score to my day. (Squeezing eyes shut, ah, I can here him now.)

(of course, the only ukelele song we ALL know is Going to a Hukilau)

Amy T. (eesh) said...

Eesh. How do I edit!

I hear him. I HEAR him...

marjie said...

Because of you, AT, I added to the title. Do you like it?

Carol said...

I'm curious. Is there any food or taste that you long for from here?

Mungo said...

I'm going home tonight, grabbing some flashlights and candles, turning off the lights, tracking down a minstrel (or, some sort of ukelele music from my vast record collection), and cooking by candlelight tonight... My girls will LOVE it!! What an atmosphere...

Amy T. said...

Yes, I love the title change...anything we can do to bring the ukelele musicians to the fore...

Then, we'll all turn to them and, in unison, say, "You, you wash up!"