June 9, 2012
Meet Giovanni. A fisherman with a stall two steps from the deep blue sea.
I approach him timidly, we salute, and and I point to some fish.
“I’m American. I know nothing. What can you recommend?
“Which way do you want to cook them?”
“In a pan, I guess.”
Giovanni indicates some small rosy fishies with those rubbery gloves of his.
“OK,” I say in Italian. “Give me three of those. But will you please clean them and cut off their heads?” I love to cook fish, but only if they’re beheaded.
Giovanni nods. Sure. Sure. And turns around to the sink.
I pay him a total of €3, €1 per fish, which seems a bargain. But lo and behold, when I unwrap the package at home, six bright eyes are staring me down.
“Giovanni!” I curse. (Can my Italian really be that bad?)
Their scared coral-pink eyes make me think dark thoughts: You were alive a few hours ago…. Can I? Should I?
Then I dust them with flour the way Giovanni said. The eyes vanish.
I plop them into the frying pan in a bit of hot oil.
“Cook until they smell good,” Giovanni had said. “A few minutes per side.”
I sprinkle some Sicilian sea salt on the three little fishes, spritz them with lemon.
Slowly I fork the flesh apart.
I’m sad but glad.
It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had.