Operation Kona Blue, Part 1
What I love about Susan the most is her adventurous spirit. If there is an adventure to be had in the sleepy town of Belmont, Susan will be there. We were having our Tuesday morning coffee at Vicky Lee's (our weekly ritual). Carrie, Susan's 11 year old daughter, joined us. This was Camp Mom week (a.k.a. do fun stuff with Susan).
"Are you teaching today?" asked Susan.
"Yes, Knife Skills tonight," I said. "That is, if I come back alive," I added nervously. "I have to drive to some scary, industrial part of Boston to pick up a Hawaiian fish called kampachi."
Good thing I didn't look at the map when I placed my order with Specialty Foods or I might have chickened out. I am a terrible driver. I have no sense of direction. People like me get trampled in Boston. Real Bostonians can change 4 lanes in 3 seconds with no signals, know which one of the three lefts is the right one, and think that street signs are for wimps. I am that wimp, and I get mercilessly beeped at and cut off.
"Would you like us to come?" asked Susan. I started protesting realizing that poor Carrie might be roped into this. "Oh no, it's no trouble at all," replied Susan. "I know that part of Boston well, so I can give you directions. Wouldn't it be fun, Carrie?" Carrie didn't look so sure. "It'll only take 20 minutes to get there," I told her apologetically. "Beside, you might get some good material for a story." That day was story writing day at Camp Mom.
With Susan's help, we soon arrived at New Market Square. "That's where all the restaurant suppliers are!" I thought. The rows of warehouses seemed endless: seafood, meats, oriental products -- it was all there. We followed the loading platform, peeking behind the huge trucks for the names of the suppliers. Finally, "Specialty Foods" read a white truck in front of us. We parked, found the stairs onto the loading platform, climbed up, and rang the door bell. "We are here to see Thomas," I said.
Thomas greeted us with a big smile and a vegetable box (the kind I get from my CSA). It was filled with ice. Inside the box was buried a 5 Lb kampachi. A few more of these unassuming gray fish lay in a big plastic box filled with ice. "Who buys them from you?" I asked Thomas. He fired of about 5 names of some expensive hotels and restaurants, like Grill 23. "See how you like it, and let me know if I can get you more," he said.
We paid $50 for our kampachi, took a picture of Thomas with the cousin of our prized new possession (it was easier than unpacking ours), and headed back to Belmont.
"What will you do with this fish?" asked Susan. "I'll try it raw and cooked to decide whether it's worth all the hype. But first I need to get this fishy cleaned." Scaling and gutting is something I prefer to leave to the professionals. When I used to do it at home, it was a huge mess. Specialty Foods was not set up for fish cleaning. Since they are a wholesaler, they sell stuff exactly as it comes in. I called Frankie, my local fishmonger, and explained the situation. Worst he could do was say no.
"No problem, come on in. I'll clean it for you." he said on the phone. "By the way, I have really fatty bluefin tuna." He sounded a little worried, realizing that I already had over 2 Lbs of fish to eat. But this is bluefin tuna we are talking about. "I'll take a pound," I replied.
We arrived at Frankie's, unloaded kampachi, and waited our turn. I took a look at the tuna with the "Wild Bluefin $19/Lb" sign under it. It didn't look at all fatty, and if someone didn't tell me what it was, I might have thought it was yellowfin. But I wasn't going to offend Frankie and $19/Lb was reasonable even for yellowfin. "The tuna looks good," I said when it was my turn. "Oh, Helen," said Frankie waving his hand, "That's not THE tuna." He lifted the top fillets and a layer of parchment to reveal a whole new layer of fish. I gasped. It was something that looked like well-marbled beef. "Here is THE tuna," said Frankie proudly. "I wonder if anyone understands the difference between these tunas," I thought out loud admiring this king of fish. "No, most customers don't." I wouldn't be surprised if bluefin freaked most people out. I could totally see customers asking Frankie for the "good, red" tuna, not this pale one.
In no time, our kampachi was scaled and filleted. "Susan, would you like to take some home?" I asked. "Oh no, I don't really like fish. I am just here to document the adventure," replied Susan snapping pictures of the shop, the fish, Frankie, and me.
"Well, Carrie," I said, "There is a story here waiting to be written." I am not sure if Carrie agreed with me. The poor kid thought the Boston aquarium smelled fishy, and here we were dragging her to the fishiest places in Boston. But all is well that ends well. By 12:30pm, Carrie and Susan were finally freed from the kampachi quest.
The fun was only starting for me.
To be continued...
P. S. Wouldn't this make a good series on HBO? Just kidding. I don't mean to leave you hanging. It's just that I haven't written the end yet! As soon as I do, I'll post it.
Operation Kona Blue, Part 3