Getting to the source

barracuda for dinner

I remember when we made the deliberate choice to connect food we ate with the animal source it came from. Niall was three years old, and we were having rabbit for dinner. It would have been easy enough to tell him it was lapin or hasenpfeffer and pushed off the connection between our meal and the cute fluffy animal, but after a sharing a glance with Jamie we opted for frank honesty. Niall processed the information, then pronounced it delicious. I guess we shouldn’t have worried!

In later years, we visited our friend Bruce of Lopez Island Farm, meeting the pigs and cows grazing before they became the pork and lamb on our dinner table. It drew the connection, but there was still a significant separation. We were watching happy animals in a charming location, doing whatever felt right. In the interest of giving our children a sense of respect for where their food comes from: a real creature, not a chilled, shrink-wrapped slab of something on polystyrene. It was closer yet, but still removed from the connection of an animal giving life for food.

Then we went cruising.

Suddenly, we’re connected to our food in a whole new way. Foraging, before cruising, meant my seasonal forays to find nettles or mushrooms, blackberries or sea asparagus. Seeking them out as much for the soul as for the dinner plate. Now, fishing is a very real means of supplying protein in our diet. During the heat of late summer and early fall in Mexico, our options for keeping fresh stores of food on board have been limited by our refrigeration and remote location. The refrigeration was not reliable for storing many perishables, as it was overburdened in the heat- an issue hopefully resolved by today’s wind generator installation. Our location was simply not near any meaningful population centers where we could reasonably acquire fresh food.

I have never understood the excitement people find in hunting and killing animals for sport, but it’s impossible to deny that we have enjoyed fishing. We read in Steinbeck about the incredible bounty here during his journey in 1940. Although it has paled since then, the Sea of Cortez can still make anyone with a minimum of fishing gear feel like a pro. On one short dinghy ride a couple of weeks ago, every member of the Totem crew caught at least one fish in less than half an hour… and we were sharing one pole! Just this morning, I watched fishermen with hand lines on a pier bringing in everything from triggerfish to dorado (mahi mahi). We have been catching these, as well as sand bass, sierra, and barracuda.

Typically, our catch ends up in the next meal. It is hard to describe how delicious sushi is when the fish is just hours from the water. Fish tacos are another favorite on board. We stop fishing when we have enough to meet our near term needs, but love to keep enough to make jerky for a tasty, protein rich snack.

I’d love to be able to bring our vegetarian foraging back, but the Sonora desert doesn’t have much to offer. There are a remarkable number of edibles (I recommend Gathering the Desert to anyone interested in learning more) but finding them is not practical.

That’s fine. I’m ready for another plate of the Baja classic, fish tacos.

fresh Sierra fillets

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5 Responses to Getting to the source

  1. Seven C's October 29, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

    I think that is the very best way of doing it, myself. Far better to let the kids know where food actually comes from. I think the respect the value of life better that way also. When we have rabbits to butcher, we let the ones who want to, help and the ones who don’t want to can go in the house or go play, But they are all aware that the bunnies that they feed every day will eventually become dinner. We have never understood hunting or killing for sport either. We see it so much here where hunting and outdoors is such a big part of the area. We don’t hunt, ourselves. But would not be opposed to filling our freezer with deer either. (We certainly have enough of them!)
    Gathering the Desert sounds like a great book. I will be looking for a copy. K-1 especially has been very much into foraging and wild edibles.

  2. Doug and Carla Scott October 29, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    I agree – can’t beat fresh fish! Glad you are all surviving over there!

  3. Ana October 30, 2009 at 12:32 am #

    Very nicely written Behan. I must admit I always thought tuna came from a can until we went cruising and Steve did his magic. I’ve never had tuna quite like that since. Enjoy a piece for me, will you?

  4. rebecca November 4, 2009 at 3:48 pm #

    Mmmmm! Barracuda! It’s surprising how delicate the flesh of such a ferocious predator can be, huh?

  5. boatbaby November 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    Yes, once you have had fresh fish cruising, there’s no comparison. I still dream about the Mahi we caught and prepared while out and about. But I am still a carnivorous hypocrite who cringes when we catch and kill fish and tried to make myself busy doing something else until there is a fillet presented to me without a face or a school still swimming around us.

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