That Time My Hands Smelled Like Fish For Three Days
There is nothing like eating fresh seafood, caught only an hour prior and delivered right to the doorstep of an ocean-front café, situated not one hundred yards away from the water. Our group was led to a local beach, dominated by impromptu gatherings pitched around plastic tables and foldable chairs along the beach. Local families of ten or more, people of all ages relaxed while they enjoyed the sun and each other’s companies, either playing dominos, talking, drinking or dancing to music.
Aimee informed us that this area was mostly untouched by tourists, who generally stick to the confines of their all-inclusive cruises and designated beach ports.
Aimee led us directly to her favorite restaurant, a small blue shack run by a woman who cooks all the food herself. While there were many options on the menu, Aimee swore by the fried fish, the only dish she ever orders, insisting that it is the best and should be tried at least once by all. I have yet to meet a fish or crustacean with distaste and I fully trust her knowledge and experience so I needed no further persuasion. Ten orders of pescado frito con tostones coming right up.
We actually got to choose the exact fish that would become our meal. The owner brought out a large tub filled with brightly colored, recently deceased fish that had been brought in that morning. The price of our meal varied by the size of the fish we chose. After selections had been made the wait began. And wait indeed we did. For nearly two hours, we sat under the shade of the trees, anxiously anticipating the arrival of our meals. I had not eaten anything that day and had managed to convince myself to wait just long enough for lunch, so I started to panic as time wore on. A hungry Mellegard woman is not a person anyone wants to encounter. Nevertheless, our group entertained ourselves with the never-ending conversations and stories of our unique lives. I truly love how different everyone is, each person brings such an interesting perspective to every discussion.
Finally the meal arrived! Platters of crispy fried fish were placed in front of us next to plates of fresh limes. We momentarily stared at the table, unsure of how to proceed. Aimee explained that we can eat literally every part of the fish, other than the bones. While others gingerly lifted their forks as if they were foreign objects and began to scrape the flesh from the spine, I dove right in with my fingers to satiate the roaring monster within my stomach. Together with my friend Simone, we ripped apart the little body of our fish, devouring every piece of the tender and flaky flesh. The fins were my absolute favorite part! During the frying process they became very crisp and salty, similar to potato chips. We washed down the meal with an ice-cold Presidente beer and sat back into our seats, finally content. My arms were greasy up to my elbows and my fingers smelled of oil and fish, an Eau De Parfum that I was unable to rid from myself for days despite the soap, hand sanitizer and lemon juice. I didn't care, the meal was fresh, authentic, and it represented just one more minuscule aspect of culture in a country that I was quickly growing to love.