Friday, October 31, 2008

Fish Story

The sign above roughly translates to "En Yosocuta, we taste better, okay!"

I snapped the picture in Yosocuta (of course), a village located about an hour from the ever-cosmopolitan Huajuapan. Yosocuta is headquarters for a large dam, and thusly its claim to fame is a 'beautiful' lake and wildlife area. I went to check out the place last weekend with a group of new Huajuapeño friends. It was their first time visiting Yosocuta, too.

Turns out there was a reason for that.

We piled into a collectivo taxi that carried us to our 10-peso-away destination: The 'resort' of Yosocuta, which turned out to be a few lakeside restaurants connected by a dusty road, the latter of which was littered with broken-down, rusted-out cars and random chickens.

(The chickens gave the place a kind of Key West feel, but that's where any comparison ends...)

Needless to say, this was not exactly the spot we had in mind for our little Saturday rendezvous.

However, the aforementioned fish billboard inspired us to at least have lunch, seeing as how we'd made the trip all the way out, and seeing as how the fish is supposed to be so 'tasty' in Yosocuta and all.

We piled into the closest of Yosocuta's three restaurants and, despite the fact that there were only two other people in the entire place, enthusiastically ordered: fried fish for a Mexican friend, garlic-crusted fish for my Idahoian co-worker, and foil-wrapped fish por moi. We sat inpatiently, mouths watering, anxiously awaiting the infamous sabroso Yosocutan fish.

The fish was delivered. And by 'the fish,' I mean all of it. Head, eyeballs, fins. Mine, by virtue of being grilled in foil, still had all of the slimy scales in tact. Yum. I thought that my year in Japan had made me quite intimate with all things aquatic, but my reaction in the picture above says it all.

(Insert 'Fish Heads' song here: fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads, eat them up, yum...)

But after I got past the head and the eyeballs and the fins and the scales, and then past the exactly 1,567 microscopic bones contained therein, the fish actually tasted pretty good. Had a unique -- what's the word?-- tasty flavor. Especially when accompanied when fresh tortillas and salsa and a few swigs of mezcal.

Our bellies full, we decided to check out the 'beautiful' lake that had apparently spawned our 'tasty' fish. The Idahoian negotiated a killer rental rate (40 pesos/hour) on a wooden rowboat, and we paddled out into the crystal blue water...

...which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be more of a greenish-grey color and was suspiciously foggy. And it had a strange odor. Did we seriously just eat fish from here?

The punch line is this: The 'beautiful' lake is actually super polluted. It's basically a giant toilet bowl for the dozens of Mixtec communities that live in the surrounding mountains. Their sewage ('greywater,' I think it's called, in polite speak) flows downhill and ends up right there in Lake Yosocuta. Guess that explained the unique, 'tasty' flavor of the fish.

Radioactvity. Or something like that.

The good news is that my stomach has officially adjusted to Mexico: I didn't get sick. And neither did either of my fish-eatin' dining companions. The bad news is that that was my first -- and last-- experience with the infamous "tasty" Yosocuta fish.

Don't believe the hype. Stick to the quesadillas.

No comments: