If a Goan gives up eating fish during their childhood it must be because of the pain and anguish of a fishbone getting stuck in their throats. But even that won’t be for long. As for me, it did take about three years to get back to eating fish and that too if my granny was there beside me to clean the fish for me!
The love affair between a true Goan-bred and his fish is legendary! Nothing can come in the way of that relationship (Not even ‘Formalin’!). As for me, I have fished in Goan ponds, lakes, rivers, and seas right from early years. I have already written about this in my earlier posts on Utorda-My father’s village. Growing up eating ‘fish-curry-rice’ got to be a bore when during later years, i took a liking to pork sausages, sorpotel, and xacuti. But then we were poor and could not afford these things except on special days like birthdays, weddings, ‘ladainhas’ (litanies) and ‘festas’ (Feasts).
My mom went to the Margao market every day at 11 am, making sure that by the time we four brothers got home, we had the freshest of fish on our plates. Although we never saw the bigger and better varieties of fish, only later did we know that eating sardines and mackerels was providing our bodies loads of Omega-3 that holds us in good stead to this day. If I accompanied my mother to the market during holidays to help her carry her bag, it was only because I could have a ‘falooda’ at the stalls in the market! I hated entering the fish market due to the objectionable smell of fish. Also, if the dirty water got into my slippers (‘Payals’ they were!), the discomfort of walking in those, smelling fish all the way home was a dread that I always hated! Then there were the dogs that would mingle with the crowds sniffing at your bags. I would cower behind my mother’s skirt, trying to avoid them licking my legs.
My mom had a few favourite fishmongers who she always went to. Such was their relationship that they would never cheat my mom ….ever! If they did not have good quality fish, they would tell my mom not to buy from them. I have learnt this from my mom and I follow this even in Dubai. My fishmonger in Dubai has been with me for over 25 years and this relationship has lasted because I told him the first time that if he ever cheated me, that would be the last day I would buy his fish. But he hasn’t! There are three fish contractors who share the same shop and each one of them upholds this promise. I remember, every time my boys were with us in the market, they would give each of them 2 large prawns as they knew, prawns were their favourite seafood (They do this even now, though they are past their twenties!).
As I write this article, my mouth waters at the thought of eating ‘recheado bangdas’ (Spice stuffed mackerels) prepared by my mother … (I guess I have to wait till after the formalin issue is formally closed and the rains subsided!).