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Ceviche Azul

Ceviche Azul
by Aaron DaMommio

Start with your peppers. Two habaneros usually does it for me. The spicier the better. We're not worried about drowning out the flavor.

After the peppers, the next thing to think about are your onions. Are they fresh? Are they strong? I like a nice big purple onion.

Limes; lots of fresh limes. Cilantro, of course, but you don't need much.

Wash your vegetables and set them aside. Don't chop them yet, but make sure your knives are sharp.

Then get an oak branch with a little mistletoe on it. I know it's hard to find mistletoe here. I've been growing it on a couple of trees in my garden, but nowadays you can just order what you need online.

When you've got your oak branch, take it out into the jungle. You can't always find the traditional mushroom ring here. Sometimes you have to look for a patch of shelf fungus. But the azulos are out there.

Azulos? That's what the locals call them. I like the name because it sounds so innocent.

If you can find a patch of forest that's been spared by an army ant march, look there. There's not an animal in the jungle that will mess with an azulo village.

When you've been at this a while, you'll learn to smell them. Mushrooms, and rain, and forest earth.

Makes me want to sneeze.

Leave your car well away. Let one of 'em hitch a ride home with you and you'll wake up one eve to a little blue face screaming while it holds a tiny knife to your throat.

If you wake up at all.

Once you find a village, choose a place to hide nearby. Then drop a single mistletoe berry in the middle.

When the azulos come out, don't go for them right away. Let them gather until you see a score or more. Then start tapping them with your oak branch.

They'll scatter, but you only need to touch them to put them out cold. You don't need many. Five or six is plenty -- just as many as you can eat in one sitting.

When all the azulos are out cold or fled, grab the ones you tapped and toss them into a burlap sack.

Just any sack. I use burlap in case they make a mess.

Don't look at them while they're in the sack. After they've been out for a while, they'll lose the glamour that makes them pleasing to our eyes.

You might think that viewing them at their ugliest would help steel you for what comes next.

You would be wrong.

When you get them home, ice them down for an hour. Meanwhile, get out your cutting board, chop your peppers, onions, and cilantro, and set them aside.

Then get out one azulo and start slicing. You need to work fast, looking at the azulo as little as possible. Concentrate on your fingers. As the azulo starts to squirm, it'll resume its glamour, so it's safe to look at.

Dice it to pieces no bigger than a fingernail, and drop them in the bowl. Squeeze a lime in after it.

Do it quick, and the pieces won't climb out of the bowl.

When you've sliced them all, toss in the peppers, onion, and cilantro, stir, and chill the mixture for a half hour.

Then eat it all. You don't want leftovers. Uneaten azulos cause no end of mischief.

Who am I, Emeril? I don't know how it works, but I know that you can't use heat on an azulo. I ate them raw for years, and it was no picnic. I was so happy when I arrived in Veracruz and saw the fishermen making ceviche.

How old would you say I am, then? Forty? Thirty-five?

I'm working on one hundred and twenty-three. I've seen half the nations of the globe change their names.

They may go down bitter, but I'll always greet the sight of an azulo with a smile.

* * *

Aaron DaMommio says: I'm a husband, father, writer, and juggler who came to Austin, Texas for college and never left. I spend my days as a technical writer, making the world safe for users of complicated software programs, and my nights reading, writing, and refereeing three kids.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

What inspires me to write and keep writing is the challenge. Writing a good story is the hardest thing I've ever tried to do, and yet I still enjoy just about every writing session.


Joel G, Robertson said...

Loved this! Great imagery. Could really see the squirming Azulos on the cutting board. : )