so tonight, for christmas eve, the girls got together to have dinner. lori made a turkey and i was in charge of the carp.
apparently the traditional meal in a czech christmas is carp and potato salad. i don't know why. so, being the testers of new culture that we are, we decided we should eat carp on christmas, too.
yesterday lori and i went to namesti miru to buy the carp. about 6 days before christmas, the carp stands turn up along the streets. it's amazing.
we walked up. a little timid at first, we stood around watching, hoping to see some other people order their carp so we'd know what to do. lori asked the "carp man" if he spoke english, and he didn't. so we decided we needed to ask for "jedna" or one, and if he asked us any other questions we were screwed.
we observed that someone would walk up and say something, then the guy would fish a carp out of a big bucket with a net. he'd throw it on a scale and then ask the person if it was big or small enough. so, we thought we could just say "okay" or maybe say "malo" which is pretty close to saying "small."
we tried that, but he started asking us questions in czech that we couldn't answer. we gave him a thumbs up and a "dobre" to okay the size of the fish, but then we got stuck. luckily, a red-headed lady behind us in line spoke some english. otherwise i think the guy was ready to hand us a live fish. she told him to kill it and gut it.
it was disgusting. maybe i'm just not used to seeing it. a little girl, maybe four years old, was with her father and she seemed to be loving it. she kept leaning over the bucket, trying to touch the live fish. she didn't seem phased at all by the three guys less than five feet away who were chopping the heads off of those same fish.
so they take a fish, weigh it, then the guy promptly kills it by severing its spinal cord (i think?). then he cuts its head off. when we first got there, four heads were sitting on the butchering platform and one was still "breathing," or i guess its gills were gasping for water. this guy was laughing as he chopped off the fishes head. they seemed to take their jobs lightly; five minutes before they were butchering our fish, elbow deep in blood and guts, all three of the fishmongers were chowing down on sandwiches.
they handed back our change, crowns covered in fish blood and guts, and a bag of insides and the fish head. cleaning, skinning and cutting up that fish tonight was one of the toughest things i've done for a meal in my life. it's pretty cool to know what it feels like to actually work for a meal instead of only having it slapped down in front of you.
we've proudly displayed our carp head, named "vaclav," on lori and anna's dining room table.