Part of the allure of spending some of your life on an island that makes its primary income from tourism, is the daily easy living of the locals. These hard working men and women are bursting with joy from family and take great pride in occupations from street food vendor, bartender, concierge, waiter/waitress, housekeeper to scuba instructors and tour guides. One of the greatest joys, I find, is observing the life of the fisherman. These men (typically) live the ultimate ocean lifestyle, as they awake each morning to a sense of wonder and the sounds of the sea. Their bounty awaits! The hunt is on. Boarding pangas, with worn patinas, the romance of the sea calls them to return early morn. A crew of two to three venture from the sandy shores and travel east into the unpredictable depths of the caribe. Miles off shore their work begins with nets, spears or lines. They are directed to locations by their gut and know these waters like the the back of their timeworn hands. Different depths, different harvest.
Then after their four hour tour, they wash in with the tide, weighted down with the catches of the day. Each group has, as it appears, a particular wooden, salt- worn cleaning table under a lean-to palapas of sorts…serving its clients perfectly. The fish scaler and the butcher knives come out and the laughter and stories begin over a few cold ones. The hoards of fish are prepared and the people come to buy.
Some fish are presold to restaurants, but much is available for private sale. Locals and tourists gather and mingle, as the contagious laughter continues. Kilo by kilo the days wages are made. Pargo (red snapper), yellowtail, grouper, boquinete, and shrimp vary in their daily availability. And then their robust spirit continues, as the wood grill is fired up. Onlookers are always welcome to to join in their carefree time and even offered a bite or two from the unique appeal of the hot grill surrounded by a sandy beach.
The other day I purchased a kilo of medium to large shrimp for $22 USD ($400) pesos. Back in our casa cocina, I prepared these shimmering gems for an assortment of dishes. All pan grilled stovetop, I use only salted butter as the seasoning. In my experience, the salted butter mixes well to help the seafood retain an ocean quality that I can’t get from a sea salt grinder. And later (and the next day), a culinary experience from the sea. Fresh off the boat fresh!! Adding to the unique appeal of living with the ocean out your back door. -E