Rosemary Parkinson, Contributor
Fish, glorious fish. From bright red to silvery and gorgeous hues of blues and green, our scaly (and sometimes slippery) friends inhabit these island waters providing the best in food for Caribbean people.
With names like Blacktip, Silky and Bull Shark, Blue or White Marlin or Yellowfin Tuna, we can move right along to Dog, Mutton, Lane, Yellowtail or Red Snapper. When it comes to Grouper, we are not behind in what we call this species - Black, Scamp, Tiger, Comb, Marbled and Yellowmouth. Parrot fish not to be dismissed, come in Queen, Blue, Striped or Redbound. Horse-Eye, Cottonmouth, Goggle Eye (purported to have aphrodisiac qualities) are just some of the smaller sea-dwellers that can lead straight into the sharp teeth of the Barracuda and its divine flesh.
On the slightly larger side, we have Dolphin or King Fish before coming down in the size of things to the Flying Fish, going even smaller with Jack and Fray before almost disappearing into the very tiny TiTiRi that fill the mouths of Dominican rivers with a thick soup-like vision of goodness. Caught only on the third morning after the quarter moon, these very tiny, not-more-than-an-inch-all-eyes-with-see-through-body fish, create a bundle of joy once seasoned and fried into cakes.
I have only scratched the surface of the different kinds of fish that lurk freely in our warm island waters before finding themselves at the end of a hook, covered in a net, stuck in a pot, dynamited out of the sea (not a good idea), or just plain shot at with a spear before being scaled, gutted, left whole, head on or off, filleted or cut into steaks. Once washed in lime and salt prior to seasoning with aromatic herbs and spices, fish is fried (in batter or not), steamed, baked (stuffed or not), grilled or roasted and served up on paper, plastic, Styrofoam or platter. Containers vary from melamine to fine ceramic or china. The fish is then swallowed with much gusto by unappetising humans. These creatures can also be salted in the sun or placed into a brine 'till pickled.
Another fine use for fish is soup. Generally called a fish water, broth or tea, it is drunk by men who naturally claim that this concoction puts it all back. I must confess I have never quite liked the sound of that 'putting-it-all-back our so-called better-halves seem to think that this is a good thing.
Fish is good for you, say the pundits. Very healthy, they say, notwithstanding the screams of horror from those vegetarians who would have us believe that vegetables do not hate being swallowed cooked or raw as much as a fish does. The claims of brain health improved by the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, is impressive. My father always said eating the eyes made you bright and better to see with at night! A Tufts University study has shown that diets high in fatty fish run a significantly lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Health benefits of fish
Fish vendor with customer in Castries fish market. - Photos by Rosemary Parkinson
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, fish oils reduce kidney cancer in women and can reverse obesity and protect the heart. Fish contain Vitamin A, D, Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid and biotin, Thiamine (B1), and Vitamin C in small quantities.
So as you travel around this beautiful island Jamaica, as you take a break away from Europe and America and scour the Caribbean, keep a look out for fish. See them in all their glory in all colours, sizes and shapes being removed from nets pulled in by the fishermen onto the beach. Watch for the pots being hauled in full of the best. Keep an eye out for fishing villages and fishing complexes. Learn all about the different fish in each island - each island having preferred tastes in same. Fishermen love to talk about their catch and vendors love to sell, and fresh fish tastes better than the frozen one on your supermarket shelf. Get to a fish market and remember it's all in the eye of the beholder - look at your fish well before purchasing and make sure the eyes are nice and clear, the flesh firm.
"Dolphin, dolphin, bring a fiver and you can get a whole pound." "Flying fish, 10 for 10." "It's best if it fresh and I have de best fresh carite, small Jacks and a few fray." "Fish, fish, five dollar a pound, come and buy your fresh fish." What lovely calls island fish vendors have, just take a break from beef and hit that sweet fish!
Rosemary Parkinson was last seen boarding a fishing boat off some spurious little island in the company of one Mr. Shark. Question is: will she take the bake?