But then twenty minutes later during my Saturday morning fabric visit, Thuy tells me she doesn't want to go out tonight. I think she's joking; we've been planning this for weeks. She's tired, she says. Maybe it's the rain or something. "I just want to make dinner at your house. You, Katherine, Tarn, Thanh, me. Eating and talking. Warm like that."
A few minutes later when Thuy is helping a customer, Thanh tells me that Thuy's dress didn't turn out like she wanted. She's bothered beyond that, though. It's funny, I'm not sure if the language barrier makes it any more difficult to understand complicated emotions. But the only bad thing about having the T Sisters cook at the castle tonight is that I'm going to let my real mom down. And it gets tiring, letting moms down all the time, all over the world...
So anyway, Thuy and I go marketing together. We have another fish bludgeoned to death, buy seven squid and a bunch of noodles and vegetables. I can figure this one out: we're making fresh spring rolls.
I love having friends who show up at my house with a portable gas stove. We wash the fish five times with a water/salt mixture, rub it again with salt and put it in a steamer with seven dried shitake mushrooms. While the fish and mushrooms cook, we prepare the squid and vegetables and THE SAUCE. The sauce this time is amazing. She begins with the usuals: lime, water, sugar and chilies. But tonight, she smashes up a bit of pineapple and uses a special dark fish sauce made on the island of Phuc Quoc, where Katherine went last weekend for her three day vacation (just don't smell it up close). And the gas grill is just for the squid this time; Thuy puts vinegar and ginger in the pan and we boil the squid pieces as we eat.
The picture of the spring roll is taken before it's rolled up (if you look closely you can see the outer wrapper against the plate). The crunchy stuff on top is sauteed shallots, green onions and peanuts. When it's rolled, you just dip it into the pineapple sauce. All K, T and I can do is make yummy noises as we eat roll after roll.
After dinner we move to the roof and after digesting and cooling off a bit, we come back down to watch a Vietnamese movie with English subtitles.
I'm actually happy to stay in ("warm" in the castle is quite true), because our karaoke night was too much fun Friday night and we didn't get home until after 2 am. We had this great taxi driver who couldn't stop laughing when Shannon put her pink Easter bunny ears on him - he was such a good sport about it that Shannon gave them to him and he wore them all the way home. The others in my taxi still wanted more fun at 2 am, but I was ready for sleep. Before Tarn got out of the taxi, he handed me the birthday cake box, and while talking with the taxi driver all the way to our street, I noticed him eyeing the cake box.
"Do you want a piece?" I ask before getting out of the cab. He smiles and nods enthusiastically. So I take the cake out of the box and my bunny-eared taxi driver and I try to figure out how to cut a piece as we sit in the dark street at 2 in the morning. Finally he takes a notepad with cardboard backing and rips the backing off. It makes a pretty good knife. I sit with him and we chat while he eats the cake. When I say thank you and get out, he says, "You and your friends are nice."
Yes. For sure. So here's another example of how nice my Saigon friends are: for my "real" gift - as if she hadn't already done enough - Alice bought me a round-trip ticket to Manila for our upcoming four day weekend. She has this friend from there, and she has commissioned him to show me all of the best places to eat in the Philippines. I don't even know what to say about this gift. I am overwhelmed by it. And I'll get to share it with you...
Oh, and speaking of letting real mothers down and dresses that aren't quite right: the dresses that I had made for the dress competition a while ago, well, they didn't really turn out like I wanted. I chose the wrong material, and my Ben Thanh seamstress didn't really get the concept. Michelle agreed when she was here. So I had my other seamstress - the one all the way across town - make one. On the day I was supposed to pick it up, she sent me a text that her father had died and that she would be out of the city for a few weeks. So that is the status of the dress competition dresses. Sorry it's taken so long for the results.
And - real mom - I'm really sorry. You'll get your picture some day.