Inside the Meat Market

Let me think happy thoughts. If I close my eyes I can picture our old kitchen now, smell the clove and bay leaf, hear the spitting of the kadai. Bappu’s gas rings and tawa grills were off to the left as you entered, and you’d often see him sipping his milky tea, the four basic masalas of Indian cooking bubbling away under his watchful eye. On his head, the toque, the towering chef’s hat of which he was so proud. Energetic cockroaches, antennae waving, scampered across the trays of raw shellfish and sea bream to his elbow, and at his fingertips were the little bowls of his trade—garlic water, green peas, a creamy coconut and cashew gruel, chili and ginger purees…

Entering the meat market’s cool hall, I erupted in goose bumps, my eyes adjusting slowly to the gloomy light. The first vision to emerge from the fetid air was a butcher mincing stringy meat with a massive knife. We passed rhythmic hacking, the air sickly sweet with death, the gutter-river red…

I remember—as the butcher expertly cut and trimmed the mutton, wrapping the legs in wax paper—lifting my head to the blue black ravens that intensely stared down at us from the rafters directly overhead. They raucously cawed and ruffled wings, their white trails of shit splattering down the columns and onto the meat. And I hear them now, to this day, whenever I attempt something ludicrously “artistic” in my Paris kitchen…”

—Richard C. Morais
The Hundred-Foot Journey

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