Oh boy, the last few days have been some of the best days this year. Driving towards Albania on a gorgeous sunny day Matt and I couldn’t resist stopping in Amfilochia, Greece for a quick walk and a beer, 5 days have past and we’re still here. Nestled in the corner of the Ambracian Gulf, this town of about 4000 friendly inhabitants is absolutely perfect; crystal blue water, mountains, mild weather, happy people, fishing, drinking, everything! We parked our rig in the marina, a perfect location with great views of the city and the sea. A few people were working outside on the million dollar yacht parked to our left so we took this perfect opportunity to ask really politely if we could plug into their electrical hub for a little while. “No problem, free, no problem at all.” Sweet!
I spent the afternoon reading my Kindle in the sun all while watching my sweet husband learn how to fish off the docks with group of local elderly fishermen. Matt came home with huge grin on his face, arms extended, holding a jittery parcel containing three midsized, very alive, fish wrapped in newspaper. Plop, plop, plop, he transfers them into a pot and hands it over to me lid on. The pot twitches and I scream almost dropping everything. I’m laughing, partially excited, partially hysterical, 100% not drunk enough to brave killing our dinner. Sweetie? He doesn’t want to be part of this operation either. I slip on my shoes, sport my warmest smile and head over to our yacht buddies with the pot extended as far away from me as possible, letting out small excited cries each time the fish flop around. My new hero leads me into the yacht kitchen and teaches me the proper Greek way to gut a fish. It was absolutely hilarious, if you know me well enough you know how I get when I’m excited; arms flailing, jumping up and down, giggles, lots of giggles, my new friend probably thought I was nuts (that’s because I am)!
That evening we were invited back on the boat to drink Tsipouro and officially meet our neighbor “The Captain” and his friends. Everyone was so friendly, funny and full of life. My fish gutting hero made the best squid I’ve ever had. He simply built a fire in the parking lot, squished the squid he caught that morning in a grilling rack and placed it over the fire for about 10 minutes flipping sides occasionally, then he removed the squid from the rack and cut it into smaller pieces, sprinkled salt, pepper, fresh lemon and olive oil over everything and voila, tender squid with a nice char from the open flames! Amazing! After a few shots of Tsipouro the party really started to pick up, the guys showed me how their worry beads work and laughed when I exclaimed that at the moment my only worry was that I might have a headache the following morning from all the Greek moonshine that was getting passed around. Matt and I got a few dancing lessons and we all danced to Greek folk music in the living room of the yacht. “The Captain” spoke the most English and told us great tales of the voyages he had done and the people he had met and we of course reciprocated with our stories of the last 10 months. The night couldn’t have been more perfect.
The next day we explored the city then returned to the yacht for a chat and a quick cooking lesson. I got sent home with my very own bag full of cuttlefish and was instructed to clean and gut the critters then simmer them for one hour in a tomato sauce with lots of garlic.
This is a cuttlefish. I remember watching a cuttlefish documentary with my mom last year and they are discovering that cuttlefish are very intelligent and can be trained in maze just like rats, ‘Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates. Cuttlefish also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates’ – Wikipedia. So on top of the almost impossible task of breaking down these slippery creatures without the proper fish knife, I had a guilty conscience every time those dark eyes glared back at me.
You must remove the eyes, the beak, the inners (ewwwww) and the bonelike shell called the cuttlebone.
It took me ten minutes to fully clean and prep a whole cuttlefish. It was terribly hard to hold and would often slide right out of my hands plus, my knife wasn’t fine enough to scalpel out the beak and eyes. I got fed up very quick and ended up throwing out the heads and only cooking the bodies.
My Greek friend was right, an hour of simmering and the cuttlefish was as tender as a perfectly cooked scallop and the sauce had soaked up just the right amount of sea flavor. Dinner was a great success!
(Sorry for the sad picture.)