One of the biggest benefits of working on this underdeveloped island, is the food. Not only is everything so fresh, Arlen and her sister Irena were taught to cook by the owner of the small, rustic hotel who is a chef from Spain. I have never met Dona Carmen, the hotel owner, but I would love to know the name of her restaurant if I ever travel to Spain. Every evening, we are treated to another amazing gourmet meal for $8.00 (in comparison to the $15/night we pay for our room it is a little pricey but worth every penny). This morning Harold, one of our artisan partners, arrives at the hotel with two huge Guapote for sale, freshly caught. I start salivating thinking about tonight’s dinner. I ask Harold if I could take a picture of him with his catch. He laughs at the idea of posing with the fish but I obliges me when I tell him that my friends will be impressed by his fishing skills.
That night, Jairo comments to me that the smells coming out of the kitchen reminds him of a restaurant he once passed while walking in New York City. I concur even though I don’t think I ever smelled something so delicious anywhere before. After a bit of time, Arlen emerges with a beautiful presentation of cooked Guapote. Hilary, Arlen’s seven year old daughter, joins Jairo and me at the dinner table. We both stare hungrily while Jairo skillfully removes the spine from the fish. As Jairo goes about serving us, Hilary said, “I want the eyeballs, please”. Jairo scoops them out and Hilary pops them into her mouth with pleasure. I try to picture any chid I know in the States asking for fish eyes for dinner. It would seem to be more of a dare or punishment, but Hilary is pleased that she has just eaten the best part of the Guapote. I will remember this next time I stare at a children’s menu in the States with only chicken nuggets or pizza and think, “Hilary would prefer a bowl of fresh fish eyes”.