Your average American would recognize squid as deep fried rubbery rings typically known as calamari. One night, though, after returning home from school, I find my mother in the kitchen cooking up what looked like breaded, flat sticks. "What's that?" I ask. "Fish sticks," my mother replies. Love fish sticks. Hell, I love anything deep fried.
Let's clear something up here. I'm a flippin' sucker. If you can pull off a convincing act when reeling me in, I'm on the hook, wriggling right along with your con. Am I at all curious as to why they're approximately 2" x 4"? Of course I am. Do I say anything? No-oh-hoh. I believe what my mother tells me. Those are fish sticks.
I can imagine her sitting there, watching me eat "squid sticks" with a smug sense of satisfaction, but I can't, for the life of me, figure out how that woman can keep the punch line to herself. When I took a bite, and immediately realized that it wasn't quite the same consistency of an over-processed fish stick, I'm sure my face just slightly registered the oddity, but I hope that I didn't do that "EWWW, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?" face. I imagined a spotlight popping on and shining down on my mother, sitting at the end of the table. I hear a chorus of angelic voices in the background, holding a single note, as she patiently awaits my response, "They're good."
Many years ago, my mom worked with an Indian man who introduced her to an Indian restaurant in Chicago (on Devon or Milwaukee, in the same neighborhood as Superdawg, if I recall correctly) called the Standard India Restaurant. Back then, I was a fairly picky eater, and the thought of Indian food was terrifying (don't they eat dogs?). So when I was dragged, against my will, to this restaurant for an evening of weirdness, I remember sitting in the dark thinking, "I'm too young to die...particularly from food poisoning." But, as it turned out, Indian food is the same stuff, just different prep. No dogs (I think). Tandoori chicken is basically just skinless chicken coated with some spice that makes it turn bright red. Nan is just flat bread. Wha...? They have burgers?
Mom: "Wanna try this burger?" <---notice the lack of "ham." Do I know that Indians who are Hindu believe the cow to be a sacred animal? Yes. Do I realize that Hindus would not EAT a sacred animal? Of course. So why is my heinously slow-functioning brain not firing off this message to the alive part of the gray matter? SUCKER <--ME.
Me: "Okay." The consistency? Kinda mushy. But not bad. Tastes like meat, anyway.
Me: "It's all right."
Mom (spotlight/angelic note): "It's goat." Damn it.
This is just the Tribe's failsafe excuse for over-cooking food.
Me: "This looks burned."
Mom: "No, that's golden brown."
Me: <-- SUCKER "Mmm, charcoal-y." My mom's cooking has gotten so good over the years that I actually MISS "golden brown." Luckily, my stepdad loves me enough to make sure anything he cooks on the grill is golden brown. Love you back, Stepdaddy.
Thanks, Momma. Without you, I'd still be eating snakelips and hamster belly.