Time passes so slowly around here, everything seems to be weighed down by this heat. My feet are so lazy and my eyelids wish to indulge in another nap on the swing. I seem to blend in quite well with my hometown, its streets are much more quiet than usual and its souk’s usual hustle and bustle has evaporated with this scorching heat and humidity. A few old men and fishmongers sit on stools in front of the shops, keeping a watchful eye on anything that moves.
My mother and I walk in to purchase some fish, the fishmonger walks in behind us and points out what’s available. He tells me that he was up at 4 am this morning and caught some local fish himself. My mother selects two fish which he weighs on a weathered vintage balance scales, quickly selecting the weights placing them on the pan, on and off until the scales are in balance. This swift action was an instant reminder of my childhood and my grandfather’s grocery shop. He had similar scales, and as a child I loved weighing things and was fascinated by this process. I would place one weight on one pan and watch how the other pan reacts, just like a seesaw. My grandfather was patient with me, teaching me which weight to select. His shop was very special, the only one in our street with a porch and a couple of wooden benches. During the day children would buy their ice creams and other delights, then hang around in front of the shop chatting. Over there women would catch up on town gossip as they select their fresh vegetables, fruits and groceries. They would also exchange ideas for what to cook for lunch. In the evening the porch would transform into a meeting point for young adults and potential lovers.
After our fish was gutted, scaled and cleaned, we moved across the street to another fish shop to purchase some smaller fish for deep-frying. We were delighted to find the fish we were looking for, Mallifa, a skinny long fish with a yellowish tail. The fishmonger had his teenage nephew helping him in the shop, the boy was so excited and eager to select the fish and weigh it. School will restart in a few weeks, and he is maximizing on being a fishmonger for the time being. His uncle, a cheerful and young fishmonger was busy gutting some fish as we walked in, but that did not deter him from trying to sell us some of the other fish on display. “These are local and were just brought in, and this one would make a great siyadiye“. I was so tempted to cancel our original plan and go for the siyadiye, a beautiful pilaf of rice and fish served with almonds and pine nuts and a lemony sauce on the side.
We purchased the Mallifa and waited for him to gut it and clean it. Siyadiye will have to wait for another day, hopefully real soon. Today we are having fried and grilled fish with tabouli salad for lunch.