Saturday, September 1, 2012

Not just another fish story

I am a Yankee through and through, raised on rocky New England soil with the sensibilities of our hardy Pilgrim predecessors.

Yet, I am also third-generation Azorean-Portuguese and that part of me surfaces in my desire to live near the water’s edge, as well as in words – in the language of my forebears – that occasionally come to mind.

Last week without thinking I spouted a phrase that I heard my grandparents often say. Frankly, I never quite understood its meaning before; but this time it described the situation perfectly.

I said, “Nao mata engorda,” which loosely translated means: “If it doesn’t kill you, it will fatten you.”

My husband loves to fish, and he always hooks the requisite amount of scup. After he cleans the fish, he coats it in a layer of flour seasoned with salt, crushed pepper and garlic; then slowly grills it. When done, it looks like a steak; and there is no fishy smell.

Although I like fish and often order it in restaurants, I prefer filets. While scup is a tasty fish, it has a multitude of tiny bones that no matter how hard you try are difficult to avoid. They blend into the white flesh and after a bite have to be fished out of the mouth.

Consequently, I never eat scup – that is, until last week.

My husband had caught a gigantic specimen, and he grilled it to perfection. He asked me to give it another try.

Before handing me a small portion, he removed the center bone and every single sliver of bone that he could unearth from the flesh.

Carefully, I put pieces into my mouth no bigger than a peppercorn and chewed them to mush before swallowing. I filled up on boiled potatoes and salad.

Every time we eat fish, we always talk about the first time my husband sampled trout. We were dating back then, and my brother brought home his catch. Used to saltwater fish, we were anxious to try them.

Unfortunately, my husband swallowed a bone, and rather than make a fuss, he went to the bathroom where he says he did surgery on himself. Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience.

When we were done eating, I took a drink of orange juice, sucking the liquid through a straw; and that’s when I felt a dart pierce the right side of my throat.

I’ll never forget the ashen look on my husband’s face, as I coughed and choked, trying to remove the tiny knife embedded in my flesh. He kept apologizing over and over again, but it was my fault for breaking the fast.

Every time I pushed under my chin, I swore I could still feel the bone, nailed in place. I drank “gallons” of water, downed huge chunks of multigrain bread; and with my husband’s bidding, ate a whole bag of microwaved popcorn.

My husband insisted I go to the Emergency Room; but the sharp pain eventually ceased; and I was pretty sure, I had swallowed the thing.

The next day I awoke with a sore throat.

Five days after the injury, I am thankful that I can relate this fish tale to you. I am well, although a tiny bit heavier.


  1. Hi Linda.
    From your tweets I got to this fascinate blog. I loved the story because I also love fish. I could eat fish everyday with no problem. One of the things that I learned in my 31 years of living in Portugal, was how to eat fish, independently of how many bones a fish might have. But it still can happen that a bone might skip my attention and get stuck in the throat. If I'm having a certain type of fish that I feel bones will be a problem, there's an old Portuguese trick to get it off and down the throat. You need to grab some good corn bread. It has to be the type one from the mainland called "broa". In New Bedford, you only find it at Lydia's bakery in the north end area. This type of corm bread it has a very crusty top which is very tasty. If you get a fish bone in your throat, you grab a few little pieces of the crust and try to swallow it down without crunching it to much. Just a couple of bites and swallow it the way it is. You do this with a few pieces in a row and it will loose the bone off your throat. After it's off the throat, don't worry about it going down. I never had a problem with that neither heard of anyone having that problem. Believe me... this really works. This trick has centuries but still works today. So... this is my advice for you and anyone that reads this note and loves fish. There's a lot of health on eating fish. I could go on and on, on this, but I leave it here. One last thing; next time your husband goes fishing and grills it... get some "broa" and ENJOY your fish... you might live to one hundred plus!

    Rev. Paul Fidalgo

    1. Thanks for reading, Rev. Fidalgo. I don't think I'll be eating scup any time soon; but if I ever do, I'll buy some broa first. Happy New Year!