The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Toronto vs. Grenada:
July 28, 2010
Go fish!

When used to refer to fish, the word “fresh” has taken on new meaning for me since we’ve been cruising. When I shop in Toronto, “fresh” means never frozen. On Receta, “fresh” means reeled in a couple hours before we sit down to dinner. The tradeoff is that acquiring fresh fish on Receta is fraught with uncertainty and drama, far from a sure thing. First we have to hook a fish. Then we have to land it. And there’s a lot of room for mishap between the first part and the second. I’ve learned from past experience that it’s a really bad idea to start planning dinner before the fish is safely in the cockpit.

But I can’t help myself: As soon as the line starts whirring off the reel, I’ve decided what I’m going to make. I don’t even know what type of fish we’ve hooked and I’m running a mental checklist of the rest of the ingredients I’ll need.

Fishy flashback:
Boat-made sushi on a day we landed
the main ingredient

This past winter and spring, we hadn’t had much luck landing dinner, and Steve was beginning to doubt the quality of my Beautiful Babe Spit. (When we first went cruising in the late 90s, a friend had explained the secret of successful fishing to us: If a pretty lady spits on the lure before it goes into the water, he said, she will almost certainly catch a fish. Damned if it didn’t work the first time I tried it – the whole story is in An Embarrassment of Mangoes – and Steve christened the miraculous fish attractant Beautiful Babe Spit. From then on, he’s refused to put a lure in the water unless I’d anointed it with a big gob first. So – talk about drama! – every time we fish, my reputation as a Beautiful Babe is at stake.)

“I hope it’s a tuna,” I said when an unseen fish struck one of the two lures we were trolling behind the boat last month as we sailed from Carriacou to Hog Island, Grenada. (Go, Beautiful Babe Spit!) I could already taste the sushi – the perfect conclusion for my last sail of the season.

Nope. It was a barracuda. To the best of our knowledge, there’s no such thing as barracuda sushi. Still, it would be delicious simply flavored with some fresh green seasoning, dredged in flour, and quickly pan fried.

Jack in the cockpit:
Not as good as a tuna, but still…
No sooner had the ’cuda been dispatched to the coldest portion of the fridge and the mess cleaned up than the line started whirring off the rod once again. Had I learned my lesson? Nope. I wanted sushi. “I hope it’s a tuna,” I said.

This time (take that, you doubters of my physical charms) it’s a 5-lb crevalle jack, or couvalli, as it’s known in Grenada. We’d never caught one before, but our fishermen friends Dwight and Stevie sometimes have a couvalli in their boat when they come in from a day’s fishing. They’d told us couvalli make good eating. They most definitely didn’t mean in the form of sushi. Dwight and Stevie, like most West Indians we’ve met, are horrified by the thought of eating fish raw or even rare. It’s just not part of the culture.

Though we now had enough fish to share with friends, I didn’t protest when Steve ran the lines back out a third time. And, unbelievably, as soon as the couvalli cleanup was complete, the line whirred yet again. I was sure – third time lucky: Too-na, too-na, too-na.

“Feels like a big tuna,” Steve said, as the line continued to peel off the reel despite his efforts to bring it in.

We never got a chance to find out. After about 10 minutes of playing the unseen fish, there was a hard pull and then…nothing. Almost certainly, a larger fish, perhaps a shark, had seen the struggling tuna and eaten my sushi.

At least a lost fish is no reflection on the quality of my Beautiful Babe Spit. And the barracuda was wonderful that night.

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