Fiona Fernandez: Mind your Ps and Bs
A fly-on-the-wall account from the neighbourhood community store with less than 24 hours to go for the grand Easter meal
We knew it wasn't going to be just another weekend halt at the cold storage cum all-in-one superstore. After all, Fatty, the resident cat of the gully in which the shop was located, had been shunted out of his prime spot near the counter. Even if the street smart tomcat would have tried all his moves (meows) to bag those prized fish heads or chunks of leftover lard, it would get lost amidst the din of the endless stream of customers who were making a dash to organise their extravagant Easter spread.
After all, it was Holy Saturday - the day when the feasting (after the fasting; read; Lent) is planned and executed by most Christians with clockwork precision. Hoping to be the early bird who would catch the first and best worms, yours truly landed at the store by 10.30, only to be stumped by the crowd that had taken over most vantage spots in the shop. "This time, I've told the boys no beef; only pork," remarked Ms Dias to her friend, Ms Lobo. Armed with bagfuls of condiments and veggies, this was their last stop, and the most important one. The chat continued including a quick exchange of whose Sorpotel recipe was quicker to pull off in limited time; all the while both kept a close eye as one of the store helpers assembled their long check lists. "Arre baba! Put some more pieces, no; we celebrate Easter Monday too," joked Ms Lobo.
At another corner by the pile of fresh cakes and Easter eggs, I spotted Ms Almeida, my English school teacher. We exchanged greetings, and then, as talk veered to her family, she let out a loud sigh; "It's a quiet Easter for my sister's family in Lucknow; you remember her, right?" Curious, I prodded her; "You see, after all that lafda happened, and they put those butchers out of business, Meryl and Charlie are playing it safe." Ms Almeida, a self-taught star home chef centred food in most conversations. She managed to weave it into our grammar classes too, I recalled. "When I called her last night to exchange Easter menus, she shared that they were doing just a simple biryani. A vegetarian one…imagine!" she rued.
By now, as we discovered, the pork had been sold out while the beef (only water buffalo, please) was flying fast off the chopping board. Pork was the hot favourite today, the owner revealed, as he politely announced to the new customers that they would have to return later when fresh stocks were in. Some left, others hoped there would be able to bag that last kilo or pork or beef to salvage the Easter menu.
"No basa, please! Only surmai or rawas for my balchao. How can you call it fish?" thundered motor mouth Ms Pinto, her temples glistening with perspiration. We nodded. The burly sixty-something was a regular, and made her way around as if she owned it. "This basa-vasa won't work," she reminded the owner, despite his reassurance that it was popular among newly converted pescitarians.
"Girl, I'll see you at service tonight," I felt a tug at my right arm. It was Ms Almeida; she was ready to leave with her loot.
"I'll be seeing you, right?" she rechecked. I smiled.
"Now, don't be like those CNG Catholics…" CNG, who are they?" I asked. "They attend mass only on Christmas, New Year and Good Friday."
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org