Eric & Mike are out here to reassess how we look an invader in the eye, find a compromise, and recuperate their bad name. That name is carp and Mike’s people grilled it up on the shores of the Tigris River and my people fried it up for a Christmas feast. But this is America, and for one thing we don’t eat bottom feeders, nor do we ~often enough~ revere our own cultural traditions. Hold up, let’s correct that. For our Christmas Carp Migration we spun a loose culinary narrative that celebrated the movement of the lowly carp, both geographic and cultural.
There are at least a half a dozen species of carp that are harvested, cultivated, and cooked from Dongbei to Vienna. And those species have been shuffled around– introduced, by us, as food and as aquatic janitors only to be scorned as an alien pest. The common carp– which we got our hands on for this meal– is ancestor of the goldfish and invasive in this country since 1831. It is native to waterways traversing all of Eurasia, but conveniently for our narrative, first popped up in human history in the Danube, the heart of Christmas carp country. But you know what, fried fish has its place and all, but let’s look the sucker in the eye before we eat it and infuse deep aromatics like they would in Guangzhou. So we stuffed our piscine friends with scallions and coins of ginger that we tucked into slits in its torso. Michael astutely pointed out that these rhizomatic coins mimic the real thing hidden in Polish Christmas carp scales. Good luck, indeed, and fortunately in our new tradition there were enough coins for everyone.
Throughout this meal, we hopscotching through a culinarily polyglot patchwork of cultural traditions. For an appetizer we took a cue from the Greek playbook, the culinary gatekeepers of the Mediterranean. That creamy tart fish dip taramasalata, it turns out, is made with carp roe! The grand Polish tradition of the 12 course carp dinner lent us pierogies and mushroom soup made with foraged mushrooms and finished with sour cream and dill. Michael worked his alchemical magic on an Iraqi rice dish studded with pine nuts, almonds, and raisins which was the perfect foil to a comforting Armenian dish of chick peas and greens that represented a Christmas tradition from the Middle East. Finally, our own two cultures met serendipitously for dessert, which in a stroke of carp-inspired luck was a perfect pairing of spicy, citron infused, chocolate– dipped German liebekuchen co-habitating with kaymak clotted cream drizzled in Michael’s fabled Iraqi date syrup served on replicas of Saddam Hussein’s personal china.
عيد ميلاد مجيد