The best laid plans at times aren’t really the ‘best’. At times, one needs a bit of an odd connection sans a map for direction to get lost in order to find oneself. A rather mundane day with not much accomplished had me wander the streets of Panjim only to be rescued by my bestie -Ayesha and her niece, to have us all go and bake cupcakes. Trust me if one ever needs a pick-me-upper, Anaaya is the perfect candidate. She’s a live-wire and I’m her Rockstar baby!!! So we shopped and shopped and finally got to their kitchen only to realize they were invited for an impromptu barbecue to the neighbors next door- the De Souza’s.
Being away from home for the longest time-the concept of gate crashing ones home is NOT alien to me. After all in a city like Mumbai no one comes alone. There’s an entourage of at least a couple of folks to your invited guest. However this found me at the deep end of the pond having never gate crashed a party before.
The beauty of food in its various forms always has solace and comfort attached. Introductions made at the dinner table with a nice glass of wine has us dig into the meal at hand. The awkwardness of meeting new folk, unexpected, flew out the window the minute I dug into this whopper of a tiger prawn placed in front of me by the hostess of the evening Shaila. It so happened I had gate crashed on a family reunion of sorts with Rohit coming down from the U.S of A.
At this juncture I am going to deviate (ever so slightly) from my conventional format. The dish, believe it or not which blew me away was the Smoked Mackeral. I’m still in awe and am definitely going to try my hands at it in my smoker for the simplicity in which it was prepared. Talking to the chef of this fantastic preparation, Mr. Nasci, it is as simple as a fillet of Mackeral washed, set in salt rather caked (loads of it) for the moisture of the fish to dissipate and then washed again and smoked for 15-20 mins over sawdust and wood chips. Mackeral being a fatty fish eventually cooks in its own oils and salt for company and with the flavor of the wood chips in the smoker, Voila!
The result is something that’s rather hard to explain considering I have often been harsh on even a few restaurants for the way they prepare the fish. It’s an acquired taste and I believe after last night I have acquired that preparation as the best way to have it so far.
Smoked Mackeral Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography
Nasci- the head of the family has a presence and personality which is well ‘old school’ and quite honestly the best school in my opinion. You know what they say- ‘there ain’t no school like old school’. So much so I felt rather chuffed at the end of the evening knowing we had the same belt buckle which he wore that night gifted to my dad by his dad and passed onto me. (The little things I tell you)
Table conversations over families and rejoicing memories of near and far, it was definitely a trip down ‘their’ memory lane. Back in Goa, it’s these ‘little’ things that make the big picture called LIFE. Like the table mats we ate on- being a recycled calendar of all the grandkids photographs growing up (yes, Nasci and his lovely wife Thelma have 12 grand children) so that’s one for every month of the year. Wonder if that was planned or by design. Two of them were present at the table with us, Taran and Ananya- Shaila’s and Pronob’s kin.Ananya was in conversation with me about body fat and her swimming 3-4 hours a day. She’s a competitive swimmer. That certainly made me feel feeble and over weight just as I dug into the Mackeral in front of me. Nice timing Ananya.
Taran had a few notes in his hand at the far end of the table which I later realized was his notes from one of his study subjects. Someone’s sure gonna be the next Stephen Hawking from that family. Ameeta a friend of the family was there too and her love for prawn heads was paramount, not to mention her plate eventually looked like Vlad the Impaler minus the spikes.
So that’s just about it. A family impromptu evening with the pitter patter of rain for melodious company. Love, peace and laughter to you all.
Thank you De Souza’s.