My blogging is going to be patchy for the next little while. I’m sitting my Masters exams in International Public Health in a few weeks time, and any spare time not studying or occupied with family, is spent trying to finish my fiction manuscript, “The Sleep Trees”. Today, having had enough of health determinants in low-income countries, I swapped the books with my manuscript, in hope I could finish off the last edits.
As I went through the pages, I came to a chapter where my protagonist, Ana MacDonald visits her new local market (the Marché Jean Talon here in Montréal). Like me, Ana is from Australia (the similarities mostly end there) and on that particular summer day, her thoughts return to her hometown market in Casuarina Bay, a fictitious beach town in Australia. The market in Casuarina is actually based on the Rusty’s market in Cairns, Far North Queensland (which I will blog about another time). On that said day, Ana buys staples for ceviche which she will serve her guests at a dinner party, which kind of gets out of hand (a mix of too much wine, and too many personalities). She chooses the delicate Crevettes de Matane which are tiny shrimp from Matane, a small town on the St Lawrence River in the Gaspe Peninsula in Québec. Having just bought some of these wonders the other day, I thought it would be apt to both share with you some of my manuscript as well as Ana’s recipe.
An excerpt from “The Sleep Trees”.
Because of the warmer weather, (it’s finally a passable 32 degrees Celsius today) the energy of the market has shifted. Doors, screens and shutters lay open all day, the sun streams in. More tables are brought out, extra chairs are found, musicians play, people take their time at lunch, lounge around drinking cool drinks, watching others.
Wherever I visit, I always try to make it a point to visit the town’s market. To me, it’s always been the best way to quickly understand the place and its people, the beat of the town, the ear of its issues. Memories of my own Friday market days back at Casuarina flood back to me. Fishermen who’d sped over with eskies full of glistening catch, spruced up for the occasion, tired Tablelands farmers with sacks full of mango, avocado, jackfruit, lychees, and then the hippies who had come down from the rainforest with jams, juice, ganja. Market day was a chance for people from all the little villages scattered around that area to come over for the day to trade, gossip, mingle or just hang out. It was set up in a ramshackle old industrial lot, where rows of decrepit tables were set up every Thursday night for the event. By the time you arrived the next morning, it was transformed. It was always sticky and sweaty in there, but that was part of the allure, there was something undoubtedly intoxicating about the mix of heat, the ripe and sweet tropical fruit, the bare brown bodies, and then the strange flowers and birds for sale. Women went around bra-less, men shoe-less, and kids were topless. I’d spend almost all morning in there, filling my cardboard box to the brim with the bounty of tropical living. When I was almost done, I’d quench my thirst with a cool pineapple crush, sit on an empty table or a couple of discarded fruit crates, both watching and being watched. The guys from around Casuarina used to joke that Friday’s market was the best place to “get lucky”.
Ana MacDonald’s Shrimp (Crevettes de matane) ceviche (serves 2)
(in place of shrimp, you can use almost any firm fish such as halibut, sword fish or even scallops or larger prawns)
500 grams small raw shrimp, cleaned
2 tomatoes, diced
3 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup cilantro or mint leaves, chopped
1 chili to your choosing, seeded and finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 green pepper diced (optional)
1 small red onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado (to accompany)
1-2 tablespoons tomato or hot sauce (optional)
Put shrimp in a glass or ceramic dish, pour the lime juice over it and refrigerate for three hours. The lime juice ‘cooks’ the shrimp. Once it’s done, mix through the remaining ingredients and serve immediately. Healthy, delicious, nutritious and even gluten free.