I know I sound like a broken record but really, life has only been exciting since we moved to Louisville, Colorado. The mountain lion sightings continue, with the latest one being near an underpass on South Boulder Road, west of Washington Street on Monday June 13 at about 7:30 a.m. I first heard of this from an excited Medha when I picked her up from a camp she's attending at her school. Sure enough, Daily Camera confirmed it but the animal was not found. There have been sightings in Lafayette, a city to the east of Louisville. One woman reported seeing a mountain lion stroll by her home when she reviewed the tapes on her security cameras.
We went for a bike ride yesterday and steered clear of mountain lion country! But this is not freaking me out as much as the other visitors we've recently encountered in our neighborhood.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of banging on our front door, followed by squeals, lots of jumping and footsteps running here, there and everywhere. My neighbor's daughter had a run-in with a creature of the slithering variety in their driveway:
Fingers and toes curled, I stepped outside to see my neighbor lying prostrate on his driveway in an attempt to get as close to this reptile as possible. He petted it as did both the girls. So did my husband. None of us knew what kind of a snake it was nor did we know if it was venomous. Please do not do what these crazy animal and reptile lovers did. Stay as far away from a snake in the wild, especially if you don't know what kind it is.
This was a bullsnake. Though not venomous, they do bite!
This bullsnake proceeded to cross the street with the girls watching out for cars...
...and sought shelter from the crazy humans in some irises.
When I related this to another neighbor down the street, she told me she had not one but two bullsnakes living under her porch. I lost it when I heard that. That, to me, means there will be babies very soon. Her husband had caught one, put it in a sack and let it loose in the Open Space behind our homes. At the time, he didn't know that there was a fatter, second one still under his porch. We think that the bullsnake we encountered was the one he released into the Open Space and it was trying to make its way back to its nest under her porch. No-one seems perturbed by the presence of these snakes. They actually like them as they say it keeps the rodent menace at bay.
I am just so glad that our property does not back up to the Open Space. I haven't gone near my irises since then. I tap everything in the yard before I go near it or touch it. I freak out if something seems to move suddenly and very close to the ground. In short, I'm a wreck.
And yes, despite all this, I let the kids campout in my backyard last weekend. I am the only one who is disgusted and scared of snakes. None of the kids are. According to everyone around, the snakes are far more scared of us than we are of them. They rarely come out at night. Yes, there are rattlesnakes, but they are rare; we have more bullsnakes in our neighborhood. The kids were in good quality tents, well zipped up such that no critters could get into them.
You know, I grew up in Africa, but this here is the Jungle!
Food is my source of comfort. Especially when I have everyone from my 8 year old to my husband to my neighbors laughing at me. At such times I need protein and I need spice, lots and lots of spice. What better than prawn balchao?
Prawn balchao, for me, conjures up the images of old Bandra in Bombay. Narrow streets, lined by all kinds of shops that spilled out onto the street. A guitar being strummed by an old man sitting in his verandah in striped shorts, his beer within reach. Chatter in Konkani all around me. Smell of fish being fried...look where you're going, men! Getting pushed off the street into a gutter by a young man on a bicycle...I'm almost there. Take that last left turn near Junta Clothing Store into a narrow alley, take the first left into an even narrower alley, and then follow my nose to my friend Hazel's home. I loved going to Hazel's home. Auntie, as I called her Mom, would always go behind one of the many curtains that were used as screens in the home and emerge with a jar of delicious something. On one such visit, she pulled out prawn balchao and I was hooked. This is my adaptation of her recipe.
- 2lbs medium sized shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 medium size onion, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1.5 inch piece of ginger
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10 Kashmiri red chillies
- 1/2 tsp jeera
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- salt to taste
- Warm about 3 cups of water and add the Kashmiri chillies to it. This softens the outer skin and allows the chillies to blend better with the rest of the masala.
- Heat oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Sweat them till they are soft and almost translucent.
- Put the turmeric powder, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, chillies, sugar and vinegar in a blender and blend into a fine paste.
- Add this masala to the onions. Watch out! Don't inhale when you are doing this as the fumes from the spices are very strong!
- Stir continuously on low heat for about 10 minutes till the masala has cooked.
- Add the shrimp and salt and cook on high until the shrimp turns pink and is cooked. This usually takes about 5 minutes, less if you have smaller shrimp.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Serve hot or cold, with rice, as a side. It's up to you!
Hazel's Mom made this with a lot more oil and she also used dried shrimp for added flavor. She blended the dried shrimp with the rest of the masala and her recipe did not need refrigeration. Hers is the original Goan recipe. My adaptation uses a lot less oil and I prefer to refrigerate my prawn balchao because I don't want to take any chances with it spoiling. I savor every bite! The picture above does it no justice. It looks like shrimp in a tomato sauce. But it's much more than that. It's a tangy spicy piece of heaven.
Hazel and her family don't live in old Bandra anymore. Their building was one of the many chawls that was torn down to make way for multi-storey multi-room apartment buildings. I remember visiting Hazel and her family on my last trip to India, over 3 years ago. Junta Clothing Store, which was my landmark in old Bandra, no longer exists. Gone were the old men with beers and guitars. The road was a tad wider and much dustier. And while I didn't get pushed off the street by a bicycle, I almost got run over by a motorbike.