Quarantine cooking

3 minute read

So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.

Franz Kafka, Investigations of a Dog

I was supposed to be in Mexico—before all of (*twirls outstretched index finger about*this shit began.

I’d still be there now, I suppose, with all of the restrictions on travel—but if you’re going to be stuck anywhere for awhile, there are worse places to be: beach, sun, mezcal, cerveza, tacos. I’d always joked that I hoped to be stuck on the “right side of the wall” when Trump finally lost his shit and sent the army to assemble it like LEGO men at the border, or how I’d escape to Oaxaca “before the collapse,” which of course I predicted, like the Nostradamus of tacos, would happen sometime during his presidency.

Who knew.

We’re cooking a lot these days. If I’m not using all of the time I suddenly have to ferment and cure and culture food (just to remind myself that not all microbes are the enemy), like a lot of people around the world, I find myself turning to recipes of comfort—recipes that might remind me of people I care about, or places I love, or less complicated times. Or sometimes all three. And of course, I’m brewing a lot of coffee.

It all helps me to feel a little more connected to those people and places—even when I’ve been ordered to stay at home.

This recipe comes from my first time in Mexico, visiting a group of coffee growers in the mountains outside of Zihuatanejo in the state of Guerrero with the team from Crop to Cup. Zihuatanejo is the place in the final scenes of The Shawshank Redemption (one of the better flicks on Netflix right now, and one that was, notably, filmed nearby) where Andy Dufresne escapes to—promised that the ocean there has no memory, signifying a chance to live life free from the shadow of whatever came before.

It’s a nice thought, right now.

February 2014 in Zihuatanejo. I’d just finished helping Ivan’s father slice the fish, and put down the knife long enough to snap this picture of him squeezing his way through a dozen limes. You can see the bowl of red onions to his right—I was still working on the habaneros

Well: the ocean may have no memory, but I do. This recipe, Tiratas de Pescado, was taught to me by the father of one of the producers in that group in Guerrero. While I’m self-quarantining now, I still remember the smell of the lime juice, the feeling of capsaicin and sun on my skin, and the taste of the mezcal from that beautiful place.

Tiratas de Pescado is a traditional dish particular to coastal parts of Guerrero like Zihuatanejo—it’s similar to ceviche, but instead of slicing the fish into cubes, it’s sliced into strips, and lime juice (rather than orange) provides the acid, sweetness and brightness to “cook” the fish.

Many pantries are looking pretty depleted right now, and most grocery stores don’t have delivery available any time in the next week, so substitute at will. Even though the recipe calls for sailfish or marlin, use whatever steak fish you have on hand (I usually have something in the freezer) and, failing that, thawed but previously frozen shrimp will do in a pinch. (Like with any fish you intend to eat in a raw or without heating, it’s advisable to use previously-frozen fish if you don’t have access to freshly caught saltwater fish.)

Similarly, if you don’t have habanero on hand, use jalapeño, serrano, fresno or whatever the hell you have—up to and including rehydrated chiles de arbol. I won’t tell.

With good food—and liberal use of substitution—we’ll get by.

Tiratas de Pescado 

Ingredients

  1. Slice fish into 1/4″ thick strips of approximately 2″ length using a sharp knife
  2. Add salt to fish (more than you’d use as seasoning — maybe a teaspoon and a bit) and stir.
  3. Add fresh lime juice, stirring occasionally, until the juices run off the fish and pool in the bowl. Stir. It should take 3-5 minutes for the fish to turn from translucent to opaque, indicating it’s sufficiently “cooked” in the acid.
  4. Add red onion, stir to integrate and allow to begin to pickle.
  5. Add habanero, stir.

Serve with real or imagined sunshine; avocado, fresh limes, and minced cilantro; and Mexican beer, alongside and on top of crispy corn tortillas.

Do you have a quarantine recipe you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to give it a go. Leave it below 👇

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