Hey am-ego, you like tit-teez?
What a question, I mean how I am I supposed to answer that?
No? A no just like I swatted at the hombre in town trying to sell me a Baja blanket. No- because my seemingly innocent teenage brother was standing beside me. And no my dad and my new brother-in-law was standing there in the mix too– the demographics just arent right for saying yes, so you shrug it off. But the little mayan midget asks again and again.
You like tit-teez?
We took out from a small white beach along the Pacific Bahia de Banderas right in front of the house, rented for a family vacation. When the day was done that little boat skittered onto a beach in Mismaloya to the south. At first blush, I kinda figured that a man that takes his hires out deep sea fishing on an open boat with a single tilled outboard motor, might have landed where the tide and wind took us, maybe symptomatic of not having GPS. We pulled up to that beach in Mismaloya, then every cousin that captain had put their hand on the boat, to pull it to shore, to step us over the bow, a fire bucket line of little brown men passing fish up the beach to a smooth rock. Someone brought me a lime and tequila shot.
Everywhere life takes me, I insist on fishing. I have a deeply magnetic and spiritual interest in what lies beneath the reflections. Having never been on the Pacific, in the middle of that June I learned right away that it is a very cold ocean. We’re pretty spoiled in Carolina to have those big catfish in our muddy rivers and trout in crystal streams an hour up the hill and on down-east whether it be Charleston or out a little farther to Morehead City or farther to Hatteras. We can get out in the ocean easily and in luxury. My experience in the ocean is consolatory, I have no direct ownership over the episodic trips I’ve made to troll for tuna and wahoo and dolphin in the deep sea. We’ve pulled up a sailfish or two and I’ve sipped on a six pack while a four hundred pound marlin was coming to the transom off Big Rock. For somebody on the boat that’s fishing. Somebody has a skill that finds them and brings them in: and I am a spectator/reeler. So fishing about the Pacific was something new, yet akin to the beach days when we went with a down-east or lowcountry friend or chartered a boat to the Gulf Stream. I think we chose it because Mahi is my favorite fish and the Mexican cooks that served in the house that they said we could catch them some fish to cook. I imagined when she said her husband would pick us up off the beach, a little dingy would take us out to some late model sport-fisher. There was something authentic and fun about whales larger than the open boat breaking the waves twenty yards off the bow. I wondered if a stiff wind might capsize the craft at times as it whistled through outriggers that where disproportionate to it.
We hauled in fish all morning long. Fish after fish, these pretty little tuna-esk overgrown sardines. I’d heard of the tribe Bonita before but never had one on the line. They fought well and were fun to angle in. Our guide’s weak command of English didn’t offer much about it. So I figured fresh ceviche at the house, Mahi marinated in lime and cilantro and serrannos, that wasn’t happening. But maybe we could have some little rare tuna steaks while we sipped our margaritas and danced on the porch to Pedro Infante.
Pecking order is a fascinating thing, in animals and especially in men. We had a high regard for our captain, even in his modesty (you always have a high regard for a man in charge of the vessel– esp. a rickety wooden boat a mile of the shore of Puerto Vallarta with no radio). On the shore he was a dignitary. We witnessed the fish butcher (who slid cuts we wouldn’ta even wanted to the local fish monger) and one carrying ocean water in buckets to wash sand off the meat. There was blood, lots of blood, rolling on the rocks and scabbing on the hot sand. Inside these twenty pound skipjack looking sardines was the darkest crimson flesh I have ever seen. Meat that probably did taste like fish blood. I began to sense that it would be difficult to palate just cooked in the juice of a lime, perhaps this is the stuff they make bait and dog-chow out of. And courtesy dictated that we would take about ten pounds or so of it back to the house, because all these fellas needed a tip.
The captain waved off a few beach peddlers, but let the barmaid with the real Jalisco Tequila on through. And when the local kids came to beg he shrugged them for us. And when the little man came from the bamboo brothel, right there on the beach, he let him through, because he knew, everyman in his right mind loves tit-teez, but we didn’t go there.
Don’t leave us in suspense — were the skipjacks edible? If so, how did you/they prepare them and how were they?
Edible is relative term. In the luxury of a vacation NO- in “surviving”, yes. We had them prepared for breakfast with beans and serrano peppers.