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.