It’s getting dark so early now. Winter hovers just out of sight, waiting in the wings, peeking around the edge of the curtain–biding its time, but almost ready to make an entrance.
The sun had already set when I arrived at my friend Allyson’s house, even though it was just a few minutes after five o’clock. At least it wasn’t raining yet, which is all one can really ask for on a November evening in Seattle. I shivered and dug my hands into my coat pockets as we walked up to Kabul, an Afghan restaurant in the Wallingford area of Seattle. The rich, hearty flavors of Afghan food sounded like the perfect antidote to the chilly, damp night.
We settled in with red wine and a hot appetizer of mushrooms drizzled with yogurt and served with strips of thin flatbread.
Allyson ordered the Ashak, a sort of raviol-like stuffed pasta topped with yogurt-garlic sauce and ground beef. I had the Kabul Special, with chicken kebab, eggplant, and rice. All of the food was wonderfully infused with the flavors of garlic, coriander, and turmeric.
The conversation meandered, as it usually does, from serious to silly, from intelligible to idiosyncratic, punctuated with sips of wine and bursts of laughter.
Allyson mentioned that she had bought a can of smoked oysters the other day. Smoked oysters! That intriguingly difficult to open little rectangular can, the lid folding back to reveal the packed ranks of oysters swimming in olive oil. The rich smell blossoming, bringing the cats meowing and curling eagerly, hoping for a taste. I’d bought my own can of smoked oysters just a few months back; the first time I’d eaten them since I was a little girl. “Did you eat them when you were a kid, too?” I asked, “With Ritz crackers?”
I remember smoked oysters as a special treat. I would wait for my share to be doled out, one oyster at a time, sitting in a pool of oil on top of a ritz cracker. I stuffed the whole combination in my mouth, and savored the crunchy, buttery cracker and the dense, meaty texture of the oyster. By the time I’d finished the mouthful, my turn would have come around again. In this way, we would finish the whole can, each of us getting only four or five oysters each, which was plenty, given the strong flavor and oiliness.
“Did you ever think about the fact that you’re actually eating a whole animal when you eat an oyster?” Allyson asked. “A whole animal, all at once? Isn’t that weird?”
Somehow this had never occurred to me before. “It’s like you’re a giant!” I replied, and we mimed being giants eating villagers by the handful. “Om nom nom! Me hungry!”
The rain had started by the time we left Kabul for the walk back to Allyson’s house. But warmed by good food and wine, friendship, and happy memories, I scarcely noticed.