I went to Toronto and hung out with my friends. we did the things we used to do when we all lived there, and one of those things involved going to Chinatown, which is where I used to live back in the day and steadfastly refused to move out of. Under any and all circumstances. Chinatown, you see, is quite possibly one of the most interesting places in the world. Ever. This is possibly because it is always strange and unusual for me and given that I can’t read kanji all the more exciting because the labels mean less to me than they would do otherwise.
My friends and I called into one of the best shops ever on Spadina, called Tap Phong. This shop made it possible for me to furnish all my apartments, and in particular all my kitchens. Everything in there is cheap. And pretty much everything is wildly interesting to me. They’ve got everything you need and a bunch of stuff you didn’t know you needed until you see it. They have pots big enough to cook a small child in, stuff for your shrine, stuff for your dead relatives (even a cardboard car!), rat traps, tupperware and crockery. Lamps, rice cookers, ashtrays and those little cardboard boxes that Chinese food comes in on TV. Honestly, if you ever find yourself in Toronto, you could do worse than spend an hour or two in there.
We spent a while in there and I found something exceptional. A plastic mould in the shape of a koi fish. I have no idea what it’s intended to be used for though I suspect it’s something to do with the Lunar New Year as it was next to moulds with pictures I’ve seen before used on Moon Cakes. At any rate, I wasn’t going to buy the mould because well, even I realised that it’s nothing that would ever be referred to as a necessity. But it was a fish mould and there was something about it that caught my imagination. So I bought it. It cost $2.69. Best money I’ve spent in a while.
I carted the fish mould around in my bag the rest of the afternoon, pondering aimlessly and at random intervals, what delights might come of it. My friends, my nearest and dearest, whom I have known and loved for over twenty years now, humoured me. They know me well enough to realise when encouragement will not help.
Later that evening, we decamped to the pub and after I’d had a couple of pints and was examining my fish as my friends chatted and ignored my attempts to draw them into a fishy conversation, the waiter arrived at our table.
“What do you think of this?” I asked, waving my fish about with wild abandon.
One of my friends, himself a waiter, was ready to kill me then and there with a butter knife, which I sensed immediately.
“I’m very sorry,” I told our waiter. “I’m just excited about my fish.”
He, too, seemed interested. My friends disagreed and chastised me for being an annoying customer and told me that I would have to make up for this poor behaviour in the form of a very generous tip.
But the waiter came back. Of his own volition.
“Actually,” he said. “I was thinking. If you PAM’d the inside, you could make a lovely smoked trout terrine.”
Enlivened, I bandied fish-based ideas around with him for a while much to the disappointment of my friends who realised that this level of encouragement was not what I needed.
When I arrived back home at The Mom’s, I proudly showed my fish off. L’il Sis and Crazy D were summarily unimpressed and uninterested, and, I believe, began plotting immediately as to how they could relieve me of my fish. The Mom though, always a sucker for this sort of ridiculousness, rose to the bait immediately and started spouting off about aspics and other jellied things.
I have never eaten nor even met in person such things, but that’s not the point. The point is I would very much like to have a meal made entirely in the shape of a fish. I think that’s a great goal to have. I mean, it’s January. Things are a bit bleak. What’s more cheering than a risotto in the shape of a fish?
Apparently, most things.
The Mom’s arm was bent, and my fish and I were banished from the kitchen. I was not deterred. Despondent for a few days, yes, but things have rallied. As I write, I am currently freezing water tainted with food colouring on The Mom’s back deck in the fish mould. I am making a fishy delight for the six-year-old across the road. The Mom would say I am also making it for the six-year old who lives inside my head. And who am I to quibble?
**There is a bit of a PS to this post: The friends I was with as I showed off the mould to our waiter, Sean, were recently back at the pub. After I had sent through the pictures of what I’d ended up making with the fish mould. Sean was delighted.