Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weird Fishes/Arpreggi

Babička's got her eye on you.
Five years later I still miss Prague so freaking much, especially around the holidays.  Hot wine before breakfast and picking Christmas dinner out of a city street barrel, ah how I miss those days.


Hot wine - svařák, it's not just for cold winter nights.  The hot wine stands that pop up on nearly every corner all over the city were my good friends.  All of them.  Trust me, hot red wine at 7 a.m. is just the thing to get the circulation going back in the ol' toes on the way to teach classes - and between, and after.  Totally acceptable in post-Communist Czech Republic but sadly, the states have not caught on to that phenomenon but I will die trying.  


Holiday markets and Czech Christmas decor.  It didn't take long after the fall of Communism for the Czechs to embrace the Western traditions of abundant lights and ticky tack decor to celebrate the holiday season.  Among all the lights and tack are the kick ass Christmas markets that are set up throughout the entire city, all of which contain booth after booth of hand made ornaments and toys, hot roasted nuts and my beloved svařák.

The fate of the Christmas carp.  Around Christmas time, the Czech fishmongers set up their ginormous plastic tubs of carp.  Lots and lots of carp and in these modern times the Christmas Carp has 1 of 4 fates:
1.  Czech grandmas (babička's) will delicately pick out the biggest and best carp and then stand by and watch as it gets mercilessly cleaved and pummeled.  They are then ruthless about ensuring that every scale, eyeball and every last of the entrails are scooped up and put into their to go bag.  Apparently it makes for a soup that only a Czech grandma can make.
These Czech babi's show no mercy and leave no eye ball left behind.
2.  I'm totally not making this up.  The second fate of the Czech Christmas Carp is the bathtub.  From the market, the carp (the ones that survive the babičkas) are brought home to a tub of their very own.  As in the bathtub, you know, the one you you bathe in and stuff.  Here they spend their (few) days before Christmas swimming around, playing family pet - no lie.  All of this makes the next fate all the more sad...

Here fishy, fishy...
3.  Christmas dinner of fried carp and potato salad.  That's right, that pet bathtub carp that your kids become so attached to, spend hours talking to and even give names to, will perhaps wind up on your table, battered and fried along side potato salad come Christmas Eve.
Dobry!

4.  If your pet carp is lucky enough to live in a more liberal and modern Czech household then it will be happy to be returned to its (or a) beloved river where it will be free to swim again until next season.  As it turns out, bathtub slaughters aren't what they used to although they are still in existence.

Swim little fish!  For god's sake SWIM!

And also:  In Czech tradition, it's not Santa who delivers the gifts but it's Baby Jesus.  He resides high in the mountains and flies down on Christmas Eve to deliver all the gifts under the trees which are decorated in fruits and sweets.  I miss it.  I miss it all.  The sights, sounds, smells (for the most part) and the people.  One day, we will be back there.  With hot wine.

Veselé Vánoce!

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