25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

Early Fish Sales


T
oday if you want to eat fish or lobster You must pay the same commercial price or even more. Lobster, for example, if you buy it from the fishermen at their site, you have to pay 20 dollars for a pound as that is what they sell it for to the fishing cooperative plus their second pay or backpay as it is called.

Not so 25 years ago, so we'll take you in the 1950's for fish sales and build up your appetite. Bone fish was abundant then and a fisherman only needed to spot a school feeding in a shallow spot, cast his guild net and rap 2 or 4 hundred of them. A large barbecue bed or grill was arranged where one could smoke about one hundred of them. Young boys used to go from door to door selling smoked or grilled bone fish at 10 cents each. With ten cents and some recado and tomato you could get a pot full of "tortas de macabi" or fish balls in a delicious soup. It is illegal to catch bonefish and kill them now, so the soup is nicer today than 25 years ago because it is now contraband stuff to eat the delicious soup.

Lobster was so abundant that when they entered the fish trap, they were considered a pest and nuisance since the poor fisherman had to spend quite some time throwing them out before he could cast his net to get the fish. All fishermen ate lobster 3 or 4 times a week. Who did not were the coconut farmers. So whole lobsters were boiled and sold door to door at 5 cents each. With 25 cents you could get a whole frying pan of fried lobster and our favorite part was not the lobster tail, but the parts of the head and chest. Today, at 20 dollars a pound of tail, it would cost you 40 dollars to get a meal and at that price, you want to swallow the shell and everything else.

How about Tarpon? Tarpon have always been game fish. While trolling outside the reef, you would catch a 30 or 40 pound Tarpon, slice it into 4 pound chunks and smoke it over the grill like the bonefish. A slice of-, cooked tarpon sold for 15 or 20 cents, but one of those chunks could fill frying pans. A family of ten could eat on that at mid-day and afternoon meals with fried beans and homemade thick, hot flour tortillas. Talk about getting fat.

Fresh whole fish, either snapper, yellow tails, shads, grunts, jacks, etc., were sold fresh, indeed alive. These were sold in strings of "thatch" and you could get 5 or 6 on a string for 10 cents. This could feed a family of 5 or 6, fried or in fish soup called "chechac". Nothing beats a chechac with lots of tomato and coconut milk and then spiced up with cilantro and lime. This is served with white rice for a full meal, not soup as a first course. Talk about a belly full, you need a 1 hour siesta after that.

A few other quick sales. "Cazon" is a small tender shark. A whole slice or fillet of a three-foot shark was sold for 15 cents. Boiled, hashed and fried with a lot of onions, this can feed a family of ten. Turtle meat sold at 10 cents a pound of pure meat. The heart, liver, tripe and the fin were given as extras. Two pounds was all that was needed for a great pot of turtle meat in gravy. Wow, "Cherna" or the Jewfish sold at 10 cents a Pound. The favorite of the folks was "sudado", not a soup but a light gravy. This was served with corn tortillas and you ate until you sweat- thus the name "suclado", which means sweaty. A pair of barracuda row or eggs sold for 25 cents.

Turtle-eggs dug before hatching sold at 20 cents for a dozen. If the turtle was killed and it had immature eggs that looked like yellow grapes (egg yolk) that sold for 25 cents a pound as it was a specialty.

And so we build up your appetite, but you know, today it is either illegal to catch them or it is too expensive and you can't afford it. So, happy eating with fried chicken or pizza or lasagna, burgers and escabeche. Fish, lobster, and other delicious seafood are once in a while specialties now.


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