Fire Curry for a Road Trip

So my mom’s family is from this kind of ridiculously beautiful place. It’s a marvel that no one’s run in and blocked out the sun with condos and parking garages (I’m looking at you St. John’s). We’re lucky in Newfoundland that the coastline and weather are just unforgiving enough to leave a lot of it untouched. We all scoff and roll our eyes when we see those “Best of” lists in magazines and newspapers. “Best Beaches in Newfoundland” or “Best Views in Newfoundland”. Well, maybe I’m the only one that scoffs and rolls because this is an impossible task. It’s actually impossible. I’ve seen nooks and crannies of this island that might never make it to a top ten list, but I like that. I like that no one knows about them and they’ll never have wooden boardwalks built over them. I like that actors will never have to move there in the summertime and dress up in old timey clothes and whore their craft to pay the bills (she weeps, summer job, thirty-seven years old).

Before packing up my life yet again and heading off for work, the fella and I headed off on a little a road trip to visit Mom and Nan. We had about five days to play with which wasn’t too bad. Although Nan’s cabin is more the kind of place you want to take a pile of groceries, a pile of books, a case of wine and just hole yourself up for a month or so. I’ve stayed there for weeks on end to turn off my brain, usually in fall after summer stock ends. I read, eat, run, ponder. Drink wine to quash the panic of being unemployed. I usually come out the other end a better person, a little heavier from too much food and wine and not nearly enough running. I also come out the other end still unemployed. Stay tuned for my self-help blog. Anyways, it’s in my top five places to be on earth and I take friends there whenever I can. My sister and I lucked into a piece of land not far from Nan’s cabin a few years back. A big beautiful grassy field where I will hopefully end up as that crazy old lady on the cliff who cooks weird food and yells at passing children. That’s the only thing I look forward to about old age. That and getting discounts at Shoppers Drug Mart.

In typical fashion for late May in Newfoundland, it rained nearly the whole time we were there. But there was booze and food and a wood stove so that equals a pretty deadly vacation in my world. Mom dropped by one evening with four gorgeous lobsters for us. On top of waiting on the wharf that day for two hours to get them fresh, she had cooked them for us, and then stayed to shell them. She knew if I tried it we’d be making a trip to the emergency room and cleaning lobster juice off the ceiling. My mother is a crustacean ninja and she shelled two of them in about a minute and a half. A big beautiful bowl of fresh lobster meat and I didn’t have to do a thing. We had leftover risotto in the fridge so to prove to her I wasn’t completely useless she stayed for supper and I made lobster risotto cakes.

We did get one day. It was like that day they show in all the tourism adds, when everything is extra blue and sparkling. Warm, just a few clouds, and a light breeze. Perfect. It’s days like this I’m in a panic to get out the door in case everything falls to pieces in the form of fog, hurricane winds, or a late spring snowstorm. We hiked up to the head to take in the view and talk to the cows. It was all pastoral and lovely. I have nothing witty to say here. But I did just use the word pastoral for the first time in my life, which is hilarious in itself.

Back to the cabin then, and we gathered up supplies to take to the beach. Before we left town we grabbed whatever was in the fridge with the loose plan of making a curry at some point. I hadn’t lit anything on fire for almost a year and was practically getting the shakes. Mom came down from the house with a big pot we could use…it looked less than suitable for placing naked on a fire but she shrugged her shoulders and said, “What odds.” We carted all the supplies down over the hill to the beach and started collecting wood. It was early in beach fire season and there was plenty, but I was a little worried about lighting the fire after all the rain. I can usually rock it with one match, but when people are watching, I get freaked out. Plus I get flashbacks to the first time I tried to light a fire on a hike by myself. It was too windy and I didn’t have enough kindling, so I did what any sane person would do and I sat down in the woods and cried. Then I marched home like a giant bag of spite and fried my wieners in a frying pan. Luckily, this time it was so warm and bright the wood had had enough time to dry out and I managed to get her done. With one match. And no tears. A remarkable accomplishment for someone who’s in her late thirties, still can’t do her own taxes, and had to look up the word esoteric last week because she wasn’t quite sure what it meant.

Fire curry!! Film this Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. I’ll need Alan Doyle, Allan Hawco, and a pile of those freckly-faced youngsters from the Viking commercial, thanks. Fire curry has no rules, really. Just light a fire, find a spot where you can nestle the pot, and go to. Sometimes it helps to let the fire die down a bit so the pot can go in the coals and you can cook over a nice even heat. But cavemen and women never had nice even heat (or did they?) and were probably pretty impatient, so you know, heave the pot in and see what happens. I’ve yet to invest in a really good cooking pot that can be used over fires (shameful) but just borrow one from your mom. If she’s as easy going as mine, zero problem.

Pre-chop some onions, garlic and potatoes before you leave the house, if you can. A bit of oil in the pan, and fry up the garlic and onions. Follow this with the potatoes, a bit of turmeric and season everything with a bit of salt and pepper. Soya sauce or fish sauce will do as well, if you’re brave enough to cart fish sauce around with you on a hike. A big heaping tablespoon of red curry paste (or any curry paste will do). Let that all fry up for a bit then add some water and a bouillon cube (or you know, if you wanna cart homemade stock around, you’re pretty great). Add a can of coconut milk, or that coconut milk powder that you can find sometimes that is so great for hiking and camping. Throw in a couple of handfuls of red lentils (I had some that I had grabbed from the house at the last minute). Let everything boil up for a good fifteen or twenty minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the lentils are done. Cilantro would be nice to toss in if you have any.  We didn’t, but there was a bit of fresh tarragon in our supplies, so why not, right? It’s green and licoricey and whatever man, I’m so esoteric. I don’t think that’s right.

We sat on the beach and ate the fire curry with a loaf of Nan’s homemade bread and cans of beer. It turned out to be a really nice spicy potato lentil stew. It was so tasty we carted the leftovers back across the island. Along with the remaining two lobsters in a cooler. We dropped them off in Mount Pearl as a surprise for Justin’s mother, and by the time we were downtown and home she called to say they were gone. She’d shelled them and eaten them over the sink, just like that. What is it with moms and their innate ability to shell lobsters in record time? Is it something that kicks in only after you’ve had a kid? That and the ability to fold fitted sheets? I think it’s safe to say both our moms would kick ass if they were on Survivor. Hopefully I’d be the one they kept around for the cooking.