Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tamales and fish heads

Well, I'm still not quite feeling 100% "normal" (is there such a thing!?), due to extreme anemia, lethargy, and overall fartiness, so my blogging has been lackluster, and most of my time has been consumed with trying to fill orders and crank out the goods, while staying conscious. BUT, I am getting better, really! I'm continuing with the Mexican theme, hence the Tamales, and satisfying my penchant for the grotesque with bloody fish heads.

Making these fish heads reminded me of hanging out with my Chinese grandpa. He was a hardcore fisherman (he ate stuff right out of the ocean, no prep or cooking required), and throughout my early teens, we were attached at the hip. Well, with him and all his fishing buddies, that is. He used to make these crabbing nets. They were round, with the net in the middle, and strings to attach fish heads as bait, and a long string to pull them back in. We would go down to the canal, toss the nets into the water, then wait until the crabs went for the bloody heads. With a quick yank of the string, they were ours and into the bucket they went. He cooked me everything we caught, and it was pure heaven. Fried fish eyes? HELL YES!! The back of the crab with all that greenish stuff?? Still my favorite part- you can keep the legs and everything else. I also went with him and his buddies to "lay net" in the ocean, which entailed a group of guys swimming out with a giant net. They would lay the net, which covered a wide expanse, then, a day or so later, we would go back and pull in the haul. Lobsters, lots of fish, crabs....all kinds of goodies! One day, I asked my grandpa why they ocassionally slapped the surface of the water. He told me that they were doing that to chase away the Hammerhead and Tiger Sharks. WHAT???????? I climbed into the giant inner tube where they held the big net and refused to swim along side them ever again. Thinking back, this didn't make any sense. Wouldn't making all that commotion ATTRACT the sharks as opposed to scare them off??? I never found out, but my gramps was notorious for saying things to freak people out. In fact, for the longest time, I believed that he ate chicken shit as a child, like he told me (among other things).

When my parents bought him a proper fishing boat, I still went out with him, even though I was miserable. I would start out all gung ho, then gradually wilt under the weight of extreme nausea and exhaust fumes from the engine. He would kill the engine when we were out far enough, and just sit there, with the boat going up and down. I would hang off the side of the boat, barfing profusely. Maybe this was like "chum" for the fish? EEEEW!!!!!! Anyway, my grandpa was a real character, a maverick, a rebel, and a one of a kind. He taught me to eat things most people would turn their noses up at, and I love him for that ;-).


  1. Me ha encantado la historia de tus paseos con tu abuelo, seguro que era un gran hombre y te enseño muchisimas cosas.
    Los abuelos siempre son especiales!!!
    Los tamales son tan reales, que dan ganas de comerselos, las cabeza de pescado me encata el realismo que le has dado, pero me costaria mas comermelas jejejejeje
    besitos ascension

  2. Hey muchacha!!! que adolescencia tan salvaje!!!
    Y que mágnifico tu contacto con el mar.
    Seguro que el mar y el cielo te ayudan a curarte!!!
    Un abrazo desde la ciudad

  3. Great story! And great fish heads:) Hope you will feel 100% yourself soon:)

  4. Your posts always make me laugh, it's funnier though because usually everyone's gone and I'm all alone laughing in front of the computer laughing by myself like a mad person!

    Your food is amazing, your peppers are unbelievable and your tamales are perfect!

  5. what a wonderful story- and now I know why you eat some things I would be afraid to try out- although I always say you can't know if you like something until you try it at least once. Hope you keep feeling better Kiva- and those tamales- yum! I want tamales for breakfast now :)

  6. You never fail to impress me with your talent...I just don't know how you manage it even when you're not 100% well! I loved the story about your Grandad. ;o))

    I hope you feel heaps better soon.
    Michelle xx

  7. Love your food and your story of your Grandpa. He sounds like a real character.

  8. Your grandpa sounds great guy! I've spent my whole childhood also sailing on the sea and I still love it! And my dad is also one of those guys that uses all the parts of fish, birds, deer, moose and other animals he hunts, although I still won't eat smoked deer heart and stuff like that :D

    And your minies look great, like always :)


  9. I like the story about your grandpa. And I like your mini fish heads - they look so real.

    Hugs and greetings from Bavaria, Germany

  10. First of all buddy, I really hope you're taking very good care of yourself so you're feeling 100% back to normal soon!
    Second of all, sick or not sick, you always manage to create a miniature masterpiece. Those tamales and peppers look scrumptious, and your fish heads....well they look just like the real thing but not so scrumptious, lol.
    Fried fish eyes and that green crab shit?????? Are you frickin' kidding me? Between you and the Singapore duo with their congealed blood cubes, I feel like such a wimp - I get grossed out when I have to cut up an uncooked chicken. :-S

  11. Kiva, why are you so ill? It's been more than a month? Yes, have to echo Kristy and ask you to please take care. I can tell you tend to be a bit careless with your health? Kind of like me until we get too sick ..:)

    Have never heard of tamales so went and google it and found out that it is some sort of a rice + meat mix wrapped in banana leaves. Such a coincidence because we are now celebrating The Dumpling Festival and our dumplings are prepared pretty much the same way except we use sticky rice. You can read more here : Check here for recipe :

    ALL the races here love our fish head curries! And we all have different versions.

    I was never close to any of my grandpas. I had 3,one of them died notoriously! :) I wish one of my grandmas married a man like your grandpa :).

  12. Take care of yourself Kiva, illness that won't go away is not good at all.

    Your fish heads look almost yummy, and that's from someone who's mainly vegetarian!

    It must be good to have a grandpa to remember with such love!!

  13. I hope you will feel better soon. Your miniatures are great, I love the fish. Thank you for telling us about your grandpa, a great story.

  14. Kiva, I love your grandpa story. My boys went
    crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay area every summer with my father when he was alive. They
    use the same string technique as your grandfather--except that they usually used chicken pieces instead of fish heads(although I think my Daddy used fish when he could find it). Crabbing with Grandpa is one of their most treasured memories. Hear that Daddy?


  15. O yes yes, Linda, I am referring to "joong" (in Mandarin it is "zhong zhi", Cantonese it is "zhong". I am a Hokkien so we say bacang :).

    I have a friend in LA who's husband is a stunt man :). She writes and also stars in bit parts sometimes. My dad was pretty sporty as well and could croon like Elvis Presley..haha. He too was a handsome devil. Linda, do let's post pics of our handsome dads :).

    Which Geroge Clooney movie, Linda? I want to point you out to my friends and tell them I know this celebrity! :)

  16. Uauuu!!! Your fish heads are superb!!!

  17. Kiva Girl, sorry to hear you're feeling so poorly, I hope you feel better soon. Oh and your stuff looks so real!!! Actually too real...

  18. Wow, too much to write on this thread, so I'll make it short.

    Kiva, get your strength back or it will turn around and bite you back. Stop pushing too hard too soon.

    The tamales are fabulous and the fish heads are fabulously gross. It's quite weird to see what people enjoy in other parts of the world. I would die from starvation without my local grocery store.

    Love your Grampa story. What a gift to have such man in your life. And yes, please post pics of your handsome men.

    What's this about you being an extra in movies? Name the movies, girlfriend. I want to search for you, and you too, Linda! The closest I ever got to a celebrity was a kiss on the cheek from Harry Connick, Jr., a friend of my sister.

  19. I could go on and on about your wonderful talent Kiva! Your work is the best in my opinion.
    What this post makes me want to see is a picture of Grandpa. I would love to see him.
    Catherine XXX

  20. You guys are THE BEST!!!!

    I loved reading all the fishing and crabbing stories ;-). I miss it!!

  21. What wonderful memories you have of your grandfather. You've been truly blessed to have those experiences. :)

  22. Sans and the rest of you wonderful friends of Kiva's! Mom here again. I keep telling Kiva to post photos of her dad and grandpa. I'll keep nagging. But you think you had a notoriou grandpa, Sans? My gramps, Kiva's great granddad whom she never knew, was something else. He came over from Canton, now Quangdong, like so many Japanese and Chinese, to work in the pineapple and sugar cane fields.
    He never spoke a word of English, but ended up having a pig farm, and an opium den on the side. He had a big concrete pit and he would hang the pigs over the firepit to roast them and of course, the skins would crisp and crackle. I guess the opium came over from Hong Kong. My dad, Kiva's grandpa, told me that he would go inside the room with all these Chinese men lolling around smoking, and the smell was very sweet. This was back in the wild wild days when Hawaii was still a territory, and long before we became the 50th state. But like most Chinese, he loved to gamble, and he lost everything. Those days were quite lawless, and my aunts still tell stories of growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii. What memories! The photo of my dad that Kiva will post, is how he looked when he worked for 3 weeks on a Brandon Lee movie.