Saturday, August 14, 2010
Curiousity gets the Cuttlefish (411)
Fishing pier in San Antonio on the Chilean coast, not far from Santiago
You have a choice in life or in travel. You can motor on on your own agenda, with your own invisible line drawing you closer to where you thought you wanted to go, or you can stop and observe. This deserves more introspection and navel-gazing than I want to go into right now, but some of you are like-minded, and know it already, or know like-minded people, like the illustrious and hilarious Audrey and Dan (or Mr. and Mrs. Scott, as you may call them if you'd like to see Dan's hackles raise just a bit).
It also helps if you're a bit of a chatterbox. And I am. I like to think I'm training to be an old lady, the kind that talks to you in the supermarket about how expensive the melons are, or about pretty much anything at all. But I'm not in training to be anything really, I'm already there. I will talk to pretty much anyone about pretty much anything at any time. In the United States that makes me quirky. In Chile, it makes me downright bizarre.
But the good news about doing something out of the ordinary (at least in Chile) is that people are quizzical, but not offended by your particular brand of crazy, and are often nicer than you might expect or hope, though you should always expect and hope the best. In this case, I think I get special dispensation for being female and foreign, but in general, whenever I have asked stupid questions of people here in Chile, they have been more than willing to tell me in detail about whatever it is I was wondering about. I think when you live in a world where everyone knows whatever it is you're doing, the chance to be an expert is appealing. Or maybe talking to a foreigner is an interesting tidbit for the day.
And so I give you, jibia (HIBB-ee-yuh). I have never seen jibia prepared anywhere, have only seen it as giant bleach-bright folded lobes of fish-flesh at the market. I was told it was "like a squid" (como un calamar) one time, but it certainly wasn't like any squid I'd ever beheld. (Not even the giant squid in Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand, which to be fair, is decomposing more than a little at this point).
By asking, I found out that what's in this man's hands, are not, in fact, octopi, as I had surmised, but jibia heads! Jibia heads, I tell you.
It turns out jibia is a species of cuttlefish, which by the way, I have seen a cuttlefish while scuba diving, and it was petite and looked like it was wearing a frilly skirt. And I can promise and swear that if I ever see one of these massive jobbers coming at me, I will render my rented wetsuit unwearable by its next renter.
Fully clothed, with it's "cuero" (skin, or leather) still on.
De-cueroed. I asked the guy with the heads if the skin is hard to remove, and he said nope, it just slips off.
Ready for market.
So if I hadn't asked, I'd never have known. Next step, finding out what people actually do with the cuttlefish (i.e., how it's prepared), and continually being impressed at exactly how hard fishermen all over the world work, regardless of how easily the jibia heads and skin come off. (the heads they toss into the sea, which would explain the sea lion colony to some extent, photos forthcoming).
What did you find out today?