I have a confession. I tend to romanticize. Especially fishermen and the sea. Once, in passing, my mother, an islander, told me “When you live by the sea, once you leave it, you always miss it.” Ever since then I have been in love with anything nautical. Selkies, sirens, even that Looking Glass song about Brandy leave me dreaming and longing for that hauntingly beautiful, dauntingly vast and tremendously frightening mare.
My mare is not usually the warm and inviting waves of the Mediterranean — that cradle of European civilization that bore Odysseus, the Phoenicians and so many other explorers upon their waves. My mare or “sjøen” or ”havet” is the cold harsh ocean of the North, an ocean that is not to be loved, but feared and fought against. So too the seas inhabitants are different. These are not the warm waters that invite soft tentacled octopi to traverse the shallow ocean shore, but rather the prickly frightening hard-shelled king crab.
Norwegian fisherman wearing the classic sydvest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sou%27wester)
This has meant that, although I have experienced many Mediterranean tastes these last eight months, many have remained foreign to me. Lampuki (a type of dolphin fish similar to mahi mahi or dorado), Qarnit (Octopus), and Calamari stuffed with Ricotta are best enjoyed while in the Mediterranean.
Luckily for me, Malta had both enough fish and dynamic locals for any fisherman romantic and seafood aficionada. Especially on the Sunday fish market at Marsaxlokk. From the name xlokk, a derivation of Sirocco (the southeast wind of the Mediterranean) to the colorful Luzzus that speckle the shining sea, this fishing village allowed me to love myself in my seafaring fantasies. All around the fish market, little restaurants serve their interpretation of the local catch and if you eat there and ask very sweetly while batting your long lashes, they might even let you keep the fish that you bought in the fridge while you take a dive in the beautiful St. Peter’s Pool (in Malta there are a lot of pools named after a lot of saints) only 10 minutes away.
Since it was pretty early when we got to the market (everyone says you have to go super early!), we were not particularly hungry and therefore did not get to enjoy the restaurants but we did buy Lampuki and fried it up with some tomatoes, olives and capers to make a delicious break from the rather touristy restaurants that surround the Sliema harbor where we were living. Oh and also, just in case you were wondering, Norwegian salmon in Malta is 50% cheaper than it is in Norway. I should know. I worked on a Norwegian fish market….
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