Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. Show a man where to buy fish and he won’t have to spend the rest of his life in a rowboat drinking beer.
I rarely eat tilapia. It’s not that I don’t like the taste. I don’t like the treatment.
Because tilapia don’t swim in rivers or streams. Or lakes or oceans. Tilapia swim on farms. In places like the New Mexico desert. Or indoors in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada.
There’s just no sport, no challenge, no romance in that. A fish should be the reward for one man’s pursuit, equipped only with a pole, line, hook, bait and about three boatloads of patience. Or the bounty for leather-faced guys in sou’westers who brave raging stormy seas for weeks at a time never knowing whether their hold will be overflowing or empty.
I’ve been enjoying fish at San Miguel’s Tuesday market for years. At first it was the fillets (still don’t know how many ells that word should have), fast fried in a light and very delicious batter. And these days it’s the whole fish so I can eat the crispy skin that I love even more than the batter. Though I still order it con pasta which is what you ask for if you still want batter.
The fish they serve at the Tuesday Market is called mojarra. And when I first started eating fish at the Tuesday Market, I went to the World Wide Web (that’s what it was called then) and checked out what mojarras were.
Wikipedia, aka she who knows all (as a Spanish speaking woman pointed out to me it would be Wikipedio if it was male) told me that “Mojarras are a common prey and bait fish in many parts of the Caribbean, including the South American coast and Caribbean islands as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of North America.”
And so I ate mojarras year after year. Until this year. This was the year I remarked to the guy at the Tuesday Market, who deep fries my mojarras so well in boiling, bubbling vegetable oil, that it was amazing how much mojarras looked like tilapia. He replied, “That’s because they are tilapia”.
No, I thought, these can’t be tilapia. Because tilapia do not taste this good. So I went back to the Internet (yes you can teach old dogs new words) and read Señorita Wikipedia again and further down in the description, further down than my impatient eyes usually travel, there was: “Mojarra is also commonly used in Latin American countries as a name for various species of the cichlids family, including tilapia.”
My second best favorite fish dish in all of San Miguel (my very best favorite is still the one cooked in rock salt at Mi Vida) was suddenly tilapia.
Wonderful tilapia when it’s cooked this way. Just barely done. Almost a kilo, enough for two, for about $100 pesos. With nothing but a squeeze or three of lime. And a shaker or two of salt. And best eaten with fingers not forks.
I can’t imagine that tilapia could taste any better. Anywhere.
The seafood stand that I eat at has no official name (I asked). It’s at the far Western end of the market and right about smack dab in the middle when it comes to North and South.