Witnessed a pier fisherman cutting up leopard sharks and turning them into ceviche yesterday. That’s what he told me he was doing. This guy is a regular. A decent sort. In his seventies. Has always struck me as old and wise.
We were standing on a public pier in a very polluted section of southern San Francisco Bay. I wasn’t sure what to make of this inner city, mercury laced, ceviche on the fly—but I harnessed my inner Bourdaine, threw caution to the wind, and took the heaping forkful that was offered me. Why you ask? I will be honest: there’s three reasons I did this.
1. I’ve always wanted to try this leopard shark ceviche they talk about.
2. I figured one bite couldn’t really hurt.
3. I figured, taking a bite of delicious (if somewhat sketchy) leopard shark ceviche would show everyone that I was just a fisherman today (it was my day off) like everyone else. One of the boys… so when Jose said: Hey dude… here you go. And extended his hand with a plastic forkful of what I thought was leopard shark ceviche. I opened my mouth, blindly, and accepted it.
David Mamet once wrote: “A great meal fades in reflection; everything else gains.” Despite my gastronomic bent, I have always agreed with this sentiment. Taste, more than any other sensation, is of the now. Of course there are other aspects of a meal which may improve upon reflection—the company, the music, the witty repartee—but as to the taste of the food, I mean after we digest it and poop it out, it doesn’t really live on. Not for me. That’s all I’m saying. I’ve always felt this way. I have.
When that septuagenarian lunatic, Jose, put a forkful of polluted ceviche into my lunatic’s gaping mouth. Even now. Sitting here… the moment expands, snowballs, and blossoms to a heightened sequence of deep personal significance: 1. the briefly terrifying moment when I opened my mouth in a sort of wide eyed, yet doomed sort of way, 2. the pregnant horror of the luke warm slab hitting my tongue, 3. the reeking foretaste of it’s sun drenched, dried-blood, enamel-like crust, (hardened slightly more at it’s edges where the moisture had evaporated first, after sitting in the sun for half the day).
Suffice it to say: A bad meal gains.
It Wasn't Ceviche
What it was, was a thick chunk of raw downtown leopard shark upon which someone with a dirty, blood covered hand had sqeezed a lime that had been soaking along with the fillets, in a cooler filled with melted ice cubes, spilled beer, dead anchovies, squid, and SF Bay Water… for approximately 4-6 hours. After which time it had been pulled out of this solution and left on a paper plate in the sun for another 2-3 hours… that’s what “ceviche” was to this lunatic drunk on the end of the pier. This kindly old man, I had somehow projected to be an Obi-Wan Kenobi type.
A Bad Meal Gains
I tasted in that one miserable bite every savage injustice that had been visited upon that lime since it had been plucked. Every sewer that fish had swum through, eaten in, lived near. Every partially decomposed cat’s heads it had suckled in it’s foetid natal, sluice, every outflow tube it had foraged around, every wad of feces it had (with frightful impassivity), taken in, mouthed and swallowed… every syringe it had actually considered eating. Everything. All of it. In that single bite.
Where was I? Excuse my digression. Okay, the worst of it has passed. Let’s keep the ball rolling shall we… now, where was I?
In short, the leopard shark wasn’t very good. Not in that form. You all feel me? Maybe as a proper ceviche, you know, with actual lemons, like a gallon of actual lemons. Nice fragrant organic lemons, 4 dollar a pound wholistic lemons. But surely, NOT THAT LEMON! NOT THAT TERRIBLE BOODIED SLAB OF PISS FLAVORED, POORLY SKINNED BOTTOM FEEDER… I MEAN I COULD TASTE THE RUST OFF THE DULL BLADE THAT HACKED THE LIVING FLESH FROM ITS FILTHY, WORM-POCKED, FLANKS! AAAAAGGGHHH!!!!
They pee through their skins!
They pee through their skins!
THEY PEE THROUGH THEIR SKIIIIINS!
So… in short, without belaboring the point, the room temperature leopard shark sashimi, with warm bloody squid flavored dirty fingernail lemon juice—hey, it’s just not for me. Nevertheless, in case there’s someone out there you really don’t like, the Monkeyface News Editorial Machine is happy to provide the recipe:
* * * * * * * * *
Room-Temperature Leopard Shark Sashimi, With Warm Bloody
Squid Flavored Dirty Fingernail Lemon Juice:
1. Filthy Hands (for flavoring)
2. Dull Rusty Knife (for flavoring/texture)
4. Several unbled, rough-cut (knife description follows), leopard shark fillets
5. 5 gallons tap water/squid slime/anchovy blood/SF Bay-water solution--into which has
been poured two cans of warm Budweiser beer.
6. One quarter bag Nacho Cheesier Doritoes
Take #1, scratch butt repeatedly, fix friend’s broken sewer, change oil in truck, drive to pier, pick nose, cut bait, catch shark. Off ground, pick up dull rusty knife with dried fish blood and undetermined black stains on blade. Using #1 and #2, fillet shark, grab #4, rinse in five gallon bait bucket consisting of #5. With a tough manly gesture, throw open lid of large cooler. Into this cooler dump 1 quarter bag of finely crushed #6, and—as a nod to the original authors of this recipe—anything else that may be lying around. Soak bloody fillets in this liquid—stopping every hour or so to hack off another chunk and pop it down your throat with a couple of swigs of flat beer.
After #4 has been soaking for three hours in #5, throw in a few limes (#3) and yell: Hey guys, ceviche! Continue to soak for rest of day, being careful not to stir any more than this solution would be stirred were there various people in the room, say, grabbing a luke-warm beer out of it every five minutes or so.
Finally, reach into cooler, grab a bleeding chunk of #4, and squeeze a sliced #3 on it with #1. Hand this dirty dripping piece of flesh to some sucker on his day off, who’s merely trying to blend in. Making sure this person is an optimistic type—the kind of guy who more often than not will give his fellow fisherman the benefit of the doubt.
Not until this last moment, having handed off your filthy morsel to a wide eyed idiot, can you really be said to have produced a sterling example of Room-Temperature Leopard Shark Sashimi, With Warm Bloody Squid Flavored Dirty Fingernail Lemon Juice.
And that's my entry for today. Rube Waddell Show tonight at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Point Arena. Gotta hit the road... Oh right...From that horrifying, glorified sewer that is San Francisco Bay… this is Lombard of the Intertidal, for the Monkeyface News. Goodnight.