Memories of chicken tikka masala at Hamro Aangan -- and witnessing the birth of jazz
CHEAP EATS She made me a gumbo-reduction taco, then took my hand and led me to her bedroom. At the time, jazz did not exist yet. There was something on TV, but the sound was off. Hedgehog was wearing a Saints jersey, No. 73 — Someone Evans, who made the Pro Bowl and came from her home town. I already had a picture of her in her Saints shirt, but there was something else in the world where jazz would be. Maybe some dishes, or a paper bag full of paper bags. Holding the spot.
In bed, I licked taco juice off my fingers. I mean gumbo-reduction. I mean, Appalachian moux-choux gumbo, or for short, gumb-choux, pronounced gumshoe, like a detective. I licked the detective, I guess, would be the least sexy way to say this.
It wasn't the first time we went to bed together, and it wouldn't be the last, but it is the one makes the paper, because never before in my life has anyone reduced a gumbo for me by way of foreplay.
And I have to say, from the smell alone, while I was waiting on her tiny couch, New Orleans, I was ready to be led to bed. Dang, I'd of followed that lesbian into the snake pit of hell, or Houston, on the wings of the smell I was smelling.
One bite and I was butter. So the next night, over Korean, when one of her friends asked me what was the best meal I had eaten here so far, I said the right thing and didn't even have to think about it, let alone lie.
"A gumbo-reduction taco," I said, high-fiving Hedgehog, who was sitting next to me and blushing out of either culinary pride, horrified embarrassment, or civic duty. "It's true," I said. "What can I say?"
I started saying a lot of other things ... about all the other meals we'd eaten. Like that very morning, at Slim Goodie's Diner, where I had the Jewish Coonass, potato latkes with spinach and fried eggs on top, smothered in crawfish etouffe.
And that wasn't even all that great compared to the boiled crawfish and raw oysters and hot roast beef with ham sandwich we shared the afternoon before at a sports bar called Cooter Brown's. Where we brought our laptops to write but instead of being productive got grease and hot sauce all over them.
And that was nothing compared to the fancy pants hanger steak and pork chops we overwhelmed on our first date date night at Patois.
In other words, it's going to be really hard for me right now to say anything at all very exciting about the soup I ate in Berkeley a few weeks ago, or the other soup I ate in Berkeley a few weeks ago. Hmm. Let's try my new favorite Indian restaurant in Albany.
Remember? I went there one night with the Maze when we were both working up the hill, but I forgot to ever say anything. But I still remember it, even though the rest of my brain has been erased, because Indian food is something that does not happen so well in New Orleans.
Ah, but if you head up San Pablo Avenue into Albany, you will find a gem of a new, nice, friendly, cheap, and awesome Indo-Nepalese joint called Hamro Aangan, where the chicken tikka masala is out of this world. And the naan is top o' the line.
We loved it, me and Maze. "Tell your friends," the hosterperson guy suggested. And I assured him I would.
OK, so I got that out of the way.
Now I can devote myself to the Story of Last Night at the Spotted Cat, where the Jazz Vipers, a great old-guy front-lined brass band, inexplicably imploded midshow. The sax and the trumpet, both aged enough to know better, times four, start arguing right in front of everyone. The young guys in the band, and the trombonist, act casual. Some people leave. The bartender's getting pissed. And Sax is berating Trumpet, off-mic but on-volume, just generally being a big baby, when Trumpet turns to what's left of the bewildered audience and shrugs. Apropos of I-don't-know-what, he says, "And that's how jazz was born."