Fish Sorcery, Part 1

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It can be a bit lonely/ boring when you are in the field all by yourself.  Actually, it can be the same when you are traveling with colleagues.  Nothing against them, but after spending ten hours working with them, you need a bit of a break.  Your brain is toast and work always seeps into the conversation.  As such, I’ve gotten in the habit of creating little goals/ projects for myself when I travel to places where I don’t have friends.  Last time I was in Mwanza, I came prepared with my yoga mat and book and swore that I was going to finally complete the 40 Days Personal Journey (definitely did not happen, I think I had a three day journey followed by a 37 day break scattered with some half-hearted efforts and a few naps on the yoga mat).  I brought my yoga gear this time, but left the goal and the pressure behind.  So, I am actually working on my practice.  It’s better than sitting on my arse and watching my belly become even more jelly like.  Yes, I’m American but I find arse much more amusing to say, and the softer “a” sound mellows it out quite a bit.

Moving this story along, this time around, after an exchange with boss, which had been preceded by many similar conversations with other people over the years, I decided that my personal goal this trip would be to learn to eat a whole fish.  Officially, the goal is to be able to eat a whole fish so it looks like it was consumed by a cartoon cat.  I am envious of my friends that are able to order a whole bronzino at dinner and consume it with grace.  My plate generally looks like the climax of a horror flick with flesh, meat, and bone displayed in disturbing contortions of what the animal once looked like.  (Writers aside, the sentence would be better if I picked an actual movie, but since Scream gave me nightmares for months, I lack the appropriate knowledge).

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My first attempt at this was a Tandoor Whole Tilapia, being on Lake Victoria.  My options for fish are pretty much limited to Tilapia and Dagaa, something that is anchovy in size and eaten whole.  I’m not quite there in my culinary adventures.  For some reason, Nile Perch is rarely on the menu where I stay, but I’m still scarred from when the egg sac fell out of one when I was dissecting it in high school biology, so I’m alright without it.

I was certain that a gentle touch and patience would be sufficient to master the consumption of this fish, alas I was wrong.  It didn’t go horribly, but I won’t say it went well either.  In summation, A for effort, C for execution.  A + to the chefs.

Not willing to give up on my dream, nor spend every evening dealing with the havoc that the Indian food wreaked on my insides, I googled “How to eat whole fish”.  Much to my enjoyment, Martha Stewart has a video up where she teaches Robin Williams how.  It was a dream come true!  The elegance of Martha balanced with the wit of Robin.  Robin certainly lived up to his standards, however Martha did the most horrifying thing.  She gracefully peeled back the skin, delicately removed the meat, and lavishly complimented her show’s chef who did the actual cooking.  THEN SHE FLIPPED THE FISH OVER!  Now, even an amateur like myself know that the fish does not get flipped over.  You are supposed to use sorcery to remove the meat from under the spinal columns.  A type of sorcery that a few of my foreign raised friends have.  A type of sorcery that I am determined on mastering.

I found another helpful video, though he removed the spine to access the other side, which is also not acceptable practice for my goal.  However, I am now intrigued by Red Mullet and determined to consume some.

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