The three part fish sale in the Bahamas

First off…I am glad I wore trainers as I didn’t realise fish shopping would mean scrambling over fishing boats.

I was on a mission for a grouper.  Surprisingly, the only fish to be found in the supermarkets near where I am staying in Cable Beach is frozen and not likely to be caught anywhere near here.  I heard about Potter’s Cay, where there is a daily market of local food…so of course I went.  Well, the fish portion of the market turned out to be cooked fish. I was there fairly early in the morning so they weren’t even cooking.  After wandering aimlessly through the few fruit stalls and a couple stalls that had cages of live crab I was about to give up and find the bus back into town when someone shouted, “Hey baby girl…..what you lookin’ for?”.  The next thing I know I am following a man named Sturgess (who lived in West Surrey for seven years before returning to Nassau two years ago) away from the market and over to the docks.  The first five or six boats had sold all of their grouper, we were directed down the dock to a man getting into a black Oldsmobile.  “What do you want to spend?”……I had no idea, how much is a whole, albeit small, grouper??, so I just just shrugged and asked what is the going rate….he offered up $30-$40 and I figured that was worth a taste of fresh fish.  The man pointed to a boat, shouted out to his son to get out some small grouper…and drove away.

To get to the “Grouper Boat” I need to scramble over two boats…a man on the first boat offers a hand to me, laughs and asks if I’ll be OK.  I smile and hop up onto the boat thinking, “trainers…good idea…denim short skirt….not such a good idea”. I manage to arrive at the “Grouper Boat” without flashing anyone and without falling into the water (success!), and three fish are pulled out and slapped down in front of me.  Sturgess points to one and says, “Not that one”… then changes his mind.  The son of “the man in the Oldsmobile” smiles at me, shakes his head and asks Sturgess what he is up to today because he heard that Sturgess accidentally blew up a freezer…then he points to the smallest fish and says “That will feed two very hungry people” and he’ll sell it to me for $25. Sold!  Almost.

Do I want the fish cleaned…..well, considering the sad set of knives available in my vacation flat, yes. Please.  Sturgess leans forward to grab a knife off a pile of nets and then a shout comes from behind me, “Hey…the police are right there… ain’t got a license, you’ll get us all in trouble!”.  A bit of heated discussion and then I am following another man off the boats, with my fish, to the “stand-with-the-red-umbrella” where he will prepare my fish for $5.  He slaps the fish down on a naked plank of wood, pulls out a large rusty knife and cuts the fins off, “You want the head?”.  No. He chops off the head.  A bit more heated discussion with Sturgess at which point he man explains to me that you can’t clean fish on the boats for ‘regular’ sale , and then pulls out an ID card, which is his fish-cleaning license.  It turns out the metal building behind me on the dock is the police station, and they keep a sharp eye on the boats.  Sturgess sulks and shakes his head and mumbles something about looking after me .

“How are you cooking this?” Pan-frying. The “licensed-fish-cleaner” pulls out a long thin knife and fillets the fish and a matter of seconds.  He makes a few shallow slices across the fillets “so the fish cooks better”, rinses the fillets and ties them up in a bag.  He smiles at me, hands across the fish, and says to just add bit of lime and some spice.

Sturgess then insists on walking me to the bus stop, I hand him $10 and thank him for his help and he tells me to come back in a few days… Lobster season is starting.

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