Sunday, June 14, 2009

Frutos do Mar (Fruits of the Sea)

Fish Stew, Fish Market, and Fishing Boats

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One of the most obvious advantages of living a block from the ocean, was the abundance of fresh fish and seafood. It was a treat to drive down to the place where the fishing boats came ashore early in the morning. As they offered up their bounty to whomever got there first, we’d walk from boat to boat, hoping to get the best of the catch. And near each boat were woman, skilled in the art of filleting those fish, offering up their services for less than it takes to do it yourself almost. You just gave them the fish you wanted them to skin, or scale, and gave them their instructions—keep the head, no, give me the heads too, I’ll make soup, most people told them. Brasilians don’t waste any part of anything they eat, especially fish. The only thing they throw away are the bones. Everything else is edible, including the tail sometimes. Makes a great soup starter. The most famous fish stew served in restaurants in Brasil is called Moqueca. Most restaurants in the tourist towns along the Southern coast will serve moqueca on the weekends and Brasilians will save their appetites just for that stew.

The waters off the coast in many of the southern towns are treacherous and fishermen literally take their lives into their hands when going on their daily fishing runs. You’ll see them battling and cursing the very same waves that the surfers in the area worship. When they get through the surf on their way back into shore, locals on the beach are ready with large tree trunks to position under the hulls of the boats, and a rope is attached to the bow. Then the boats are pulled in by pulley or by hand, depending on the equipment handy, and beached on the shore with their bellies sometimes full of the catch of the day. Restaurant owners are always there first. They can buy a fish for a real or two, and sell it in their restaurant for ten or fifteen reais.

At any rate, fish is the big draw when you live on the beach. You get frequent visits from friends and families, not so much because they want to see you, but because you are closest to the food they love.

(By the way, my husband has brought to my attention a glaring mistake in my previous blogs. I was spelling goodbye the Italian or European way, not the Brasilian way. This has been corrected and no long will I type Ciao in my blogs—thank you Charles for actually reading them!)