I arrive at the restaurant at 10 am, already sweating from the heat and I haven't even worked yet. The sun is high and hot, the ocean is sparkling and singing. Lots of action already the restaurant, a dude is stoking the fire continuously, pots on the stove are being stirring by my Tia, my Mexican sister is bustling around and tending to all the deliveries, the tails of 4 Dorados are sticking out of a big pail of ice water.
|Dorado waiting to be prepared|
I'm given my first job, shredding a big bowl of peeled carrots with a tiny plastic shredder (remind me to buy my sister a food processer for Christmas) my gosh this will take hours, they all laugh when I ask how many fingernails and how much knuckle skin is ok to have in the ceviche. My cousin arrives with his nephew with a truck load of coconuts, after unloading, a chopping block needs to be set up, a chain saw is started to cut a coconut tree to size, for a brief second I get a whiff of snowmobile fumes and I think of my family at home. A hole is dug with a spade and the block is set.
|The chopping block is set|
My second job is pulverizing bags and bags of crackers into powder with a wooden mallet, they will be used to bread some shrimp and fish. My cousin comes back with a load of wood, a guy comes to deliver charcoal, a guy comes to deliver drinking water, a guys comes to deliver tortillas, he is told to come back at 1, our guest are arriving at 2, she wants the tortilla as fresh as possible, I'm thinking the guy is just going to drive around with them on his quad for another 2 hours. What do I know? It's my first day here at the Old Bull.My next job is peeling cucumbers.
I watch my sister stir, taste and add things to the pots on the stove all morning, one pot of beans, one of rice, one of escaviche. In my kitchen if I would have a pot of rice or beans on the stove, even on low heat all day it would be burned to the bottom of the pot, not here. I washed the pots, they were not burned and they certainly were not some fancy $100 pots, not even cast iron. The rice and beans were excellent
.My cousin and his nephew (my sister's son) are hungry, aside from harvesting cocos and chopping wood they've been laying bricks at some other project since 6am, plates of ceviche are prepared for them and cold cokes come from somewhere. After a bit one of them asks "Is this how all of it tastes?", we all laugh hilariously. "is it bad ?" she asks, "It doesn't taste done" is the response, she laughs some more, "that's because it isn't done yet, but you were hungry now". We can hardly stand up anymore from laughing so hard. They shake their heads at us and keep eating and mumble something about not tipping. We keep laughing and sister wrinkles her nose and keeps repeating "is this how all of it tastes"
.My next job is peeling shrimp, snapping off the heads, peeling the body but leaving the tails on. This is tricky, the tail keeps coming off. I understand the need for the tail, sucking the meat out of the tail is the best part. I finally get it but I am slow. I am also washing dishes at the same time, there is no space for a pileup of dirty dishes, they need to be washed as they come in.
|My washing station|
The floor may be sand but don't ever think this place is dirty, dude that stokes the fire is also in charge of a plastic fan rake and as soon as something gets dropped on the ground he is there with the rake, every once in awhile the ground is wetted down with water so it is not dusty, this place is clean.
|The fire, waiting for fish|
|Freshly raked floor...|
I peel shrimp, wash some dishes, peel some shrimp, move my feet for the rake, peel more shrimp, then my drain gets plugged, I didn't keep an eye on my filter on top of the drain....my filter is a scouring pad..opps, I poke the drain with the butt end of a fork...away it goes. I lift my head and see the ocean still glistening in the sun, I see a few surfers out, a boat pulling a banana boat of squealing tourists, a kid is showing off his prancing horse for tourists, (he was my neighbor last year) I can't believe I live here, I can't believe this is my Mexican family, I am so blessed. God is good.
My sister pulls a big dorado out of the pail and my washing station is now the fish preparing station, it was gutted this morning. My job is pouring water on her hands and the fish as she cuts it and cleans it. First she slice it down the back right beside the back bone, folds it open, and cuts along the inside edge of the back bone again and folds that open. She slices into the meat, she rubs a mixture of garlic and oil that was blended in the blender on it, she rubs in some salt and pepper and squeezes about 2 limes on it. We do 4 of them and they get put into a clean pail and get put into the fridge to "set".
My Tia is deveining my shrimp, butterflies them and breads them. I am back on the dishes, they just keep coming. The blender is always going, between making the garlic mixture and the two different salsas....it keeps humming, until it stops. It died. The waiter runs home to get his, the humming starts again.Did I mention it's hot, dude is still messing with the fire, he needs just the right amount of charcoal and wood, he is dripping with sweat, doesn't slow him down with the raking either, he is also there when ever a heavy pot needs moving, when garbage needs taking out, when the water hose needs to be shut off, and when it needs to be turned on. He is fast..... plus he is renting out boggy boards on the beach and making sure the barrel beside the toilet in the bathroom is full, but not over flowing...for flushing. Yes we have running water as long as dude is running the water will be there.Tia has moved back to the stove and is grilling up a big pan of onions, tomatoes, and peppers, this is to go on top of the fish.
|This goes on top of the fish once it's done|
I assist in scouring the grills, like I said, this place is clean, she has 2 grills to clean. Then she pulls out a new one that she just bought, it needs to be seasoned, we wash it, rub it down with limes and oil it and put it on the fire...dude will tend to it.By now Tia is deep frying fish and shrimp, my job is to dab each piece with a napkin to soak up extra grease before they are put into a small lunch box cooler. She uses clean oil and a clean pan for every second batch, my job is also to wash the pans when she is done so we can keep rotating 2 pans.All the glass plates that I had washed and dried are now pulled out and polished with a clean towel, it is a beautiful sight, stakes of mismatched pretty glass plates. I am told to take the ones with the prettiest patterns and put them aside, they will be the serving platters. They are all covered with a clean table cloth. We polish the mismatched silverware too. I am amazed at the elegant simplicity of it all.The sand under all the tables gets watered down again and raked, clean tables cloths are put on the tables. All chairs and tables were scrubbed down last night, while a new bar was built. Hammocks are hung up and condiments are put on the tables.
Then we get a phone call, they will be an hour late. Tia stopped deep frying. We all sit down and have cold cocos and a plate of food, it is all so good. We all get sent home (except for dude) to change into "nice" clothes, there is a brief discussion as to what is "nice" and somehow we end up talking about underwear again. We all come back refreshed, we hoot at each other because we all look so good....except the waiter, he is not impressed at having to wear pants and shoes, he is the only one that will be up front with the guests so he has to wear real shoes, with laces. They look borrowed, he looks awkward, we assure him he looks good.Tia started deep frying again and I help sister put tinfoil on each grill and then a fish is slapped on, it's spread out and rubbed with garlic/oil again and on the fire they go. Dude springs to action, poking and prodding the fire.Our guests arrive, 45 of them. Chips and salsas are brought out for all, cocos are opened, drinks are served. The fish get dressed with dabs of butter, dabs of mayonnaise, spritz of soya sauce, spritz of bravo sauce, grilled for a wee bit more and then topped with the onion/tomatoe/pepper mixture. Pescado Zarandeado...beautiful to look at and just as beautiful to eat. Some places also put cheese on it, we don't, I think cheese would spoil this. They are placed on tinfoil covered pieces of plywood and on the tables they go with the rice beans, and escaveche, shrimp and breaded fillets.
|Ready to be put on it's platter fro the table....yummmyumm|
Then out of the blue there is a brief discussion as to why dude didn't have to go home and change, it isn't really resolved, he is just special.The party is going full swing...literally, then there is a commotion up front, sister runs out to see what is going on, when she comes back I don't understand her blabbering so she acts out how a lady was swinging in the hammock and the rope broke. She laughs so hard, she has to excuse herself and hide behind the bathroom. Dude and I are laughing at her acting, it was hilarious, such drama. Of course this is after she had made sure the lady wasn't hurt and the proper apologizes were made and proper blame was given to the one that hung the hammock. About an hour later we have another laugh about it...and follow it up with a serious "so thankful she wasn't hurt".Then the dishes started coming and they didn't stop until just before sundown. I washed and washed and washed.....remember, we are using a hose not taps, very few restaurants here have taps. At one point I ask "45 people here, why are there 500 dirty plates?" No one knows.I help Tia carry a 5 gallon pail of scraps to grandma's chickens on our way home. Most of these scraps are our kitchen scraps and fish bones, our guests were all Mexican and they don't (usually) leave food on their plates like the North American tourists do. We talk about how our feet hurt as we are walking home, I was hurting pretty bad, it was a long day, and it's not over yet. I have a ticket to go see "Giselle"
|This may not be paradise but it is pretty dern close. Come on down, we promise not to laugh if you fall out of the hammock.....it's a short soft fall|