Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sea Life and Seafood....

On our second day in Honduras we woke up early. The combination of no daylight savings and being closer to the equator bent time a bit, and as a result we had to force ourselves to catch a little more sleep before breakfast. When we decided that a decent hour had finally been reached we headed out for breakfast and got our first real view of the Half Moon Bay (other than the view from the taxi cab). We had a hearty and wonderful breakfast at a place called The Beach House. Our breakfast consisted of eggs, beans, avocado, sour cream and handmade tortillas with fresh squeezed juice and strong Honduran coffee. After breakfast we headed back to our hotel to change into our suits and take that first plunge into the ocean and catch a glimpse of the reef.
We borrowed snorkels, masks and fins from the hotel, walked a few feet from our cabin door, and stepped into a whole new world. A world of colorful fish and coral. A world that swims in shoals and breathes with gills. It was breathtaking and a little scary. I'm a novice at snorkeling, my only experience being the San Marcos River, but I still managed a few good swims and the sea life I saw on my excursions was worthy of any IMAX flick: Damsel fish, parrot fish, needle fish, and conch... the next night I even saw a lobster and an eel. Too many fish to name. The variety and colors of the fish were amazing. After a long swim I found myself getting a little hungry... sure I had eaten a hearty breakfast, but I couldn't help but wonder... What does all this beautiful sea life taste like? Do parrot fish taste like parrots, do damsel fish taste like damsels, and what about conch?
The seafood on the island wasn't bad... it just wasn't great. I was hoping for a catch of the day that I had never caught anywhere else before or an exciting preparation that I hadn't experienced. What I found, however, were shrimp dishes that I could have experienced anywhere... and a surprising lack of interesting fish to taste.
I had an excellent meal at an Argentinian restaurant... but what made the meal wasn't the shrimp dish, but the bread sticks and the interesting side dishes. Paul's meal was somewhat more exotic... he had wahoo steak cooked on a traditional Argentinian grill with a pear sauce that was very nice. This was by far one of the best meals on the island... but the preparations were Argentinian and not Honduran.
For lunch another day we returned to the beach house. I had shrimp kabobs...it was a tasty meal but once again it was Cajun and NOT Caribbean. The only local specialty that I had in Roatan was conch balls...We had them our first night there at the hotel restaurant. Sadly they were over-cooked in oil that should have been changed long ago. They tasted like fishy, chewy hush puppies.
When we have vacationed on the beaches of Mexico what I experienced was a celebration of food. On one vacation Paul and I slept on hammocks under a palapa. We basically had the same meal for lunch and dinner the entire time that we were there: whole huachinango (red snapper) fried with garlic sauce. You would have thought that the repetition would have made it boring... but that wasn't the case. It was just so good that there didn't need to be anything else to eat. On another trip to beaches of Mexico I experienced similar seafood fiestas... a botanas bar that served tiny crabs, ceviche and other tasty tid bits... and an incredible seafood market with fresh beautiful seafood we could take back to our hotel kitchenette and grill. I guess I was longing for something like that on the beaches of Honduras.
I was expecting to find a variety of seafood in the local restaurants. I wanted to be blown away... and I certainly was by the beauty of the marine life. I was not, however, blown away by the taste. Most of the dishes I had were over-salted and served in a creamy garlicky sauce that wasn't unpleasant, but it wasn't outstanding either. Perhaps if I had explored the island more I might have found the perfect market or an outstanding meal... maybe next time. One things for certain, however, I will never forget floating over the reef and looking at all that beautiful life in the deep blue sea...

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