As we get closer to our upcoming Easter Break, Lent only seems to trot by rapidly in a snowy & cold daze. The cruel Winter made a late entrance into our lives and only seems to be reminding us of its presence by refusing to let the Spring shine through. Amid snow storms & bitter cold, we survive the last stretch of this year’s Winter season and pray for Spring to come soon!
As many of my fellow countrymen enjoy the scorching 30°C (85°F) weather in Honduras that is all too common around Lent & Holy Week, we here in this Siberian-like coldness can sadly only enjoy the heat & treats through colorful, tropical Instagram pics. The season of Lent is a magnificent time in Honduras for fruits & delicacies of all kinds, and the festivities of Holy Week are only a small part of a much awaited holiday, our very own national version of Spring Break! As the masses move on over to the shorelines north & south of the country, they find ways to keep cool under the tropical sun…forgetting sometimes the real meaning of Holy Week amid the chaos & business that fills the highways & beach resorts.
Before Holy Week, the Christian liturgical calendar begins to celebrate the period of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday each year and ends approximately six weeks later, 3 days before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer & penance. In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days. Although in the Western Catholic Church, the obligation to fast no longer applies to all weekdays of Lent, abstinence from eating some form of food is distinguished. In principle, this abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on every Friday of the Lent period.
It’s thanks to this idea of fasting, particularly from meat, that our little mackerel came to our table last Friday. An important food fish that is consumed worldwide, this particularly oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. And oily it is! The flesh of mackerel spoils rather quickly and because of this salting & smoking were the principal preservation methods since before the 19th-century. Spoilage was, of course, very common and this made the fish a popular stinker – which is why there are more references to stinking mackerel in English literature than to any other fish. Holy mackerel!
Coincidentally, the popular euphemism of surprise, holy mackerel, possible came from what was originally ‘Holy Mary’, with Mackerel being a nickname for Catholics because they ate the affordable fish on Fridays – kind of like Holy Cow as a reference to Hindus, Holy Smoke as a jibe at incense burning, and Holy Moses, shortened to Holy Moly. Others insist it has to do with the stinky nature of the fish…nothing holy about that! Our kitchen still reeks!
For the Smoked Mackerel
- 2 whole Mackerel
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 2 fresh lemons or limes
- 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon of minced basil
With just a couple of ingredients, this simple recipe gives you a wonderful & healthy meal. An affordable fish, they pack an awesome nutritional punch and don’t be put off by the oily skin or flesh, that’s where most of the good stuff is! Since Mackerel is an oily fish, your don’t have to baste with oil and be sure to season the inside & outside of the fish to get seasoning & basting juices into the meat.
Run water over the fish inside & out. Then use paper towels to dry it up. Make three or four diagonal cuts in each side of the fish, all the way right through the bone. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and squeeze some lemon over it. In a small bowl, combine the spices and add some liquid (lemon juice or water) as desired. Thoroughly marinade the fish with the garlic mixture and prep for grilling.
When you are ready to grill, wipe down the grill with oil to prevent the fish from sticking. Preheat the burners on high for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderate. Place the fish only the grill and cook for about 7-10 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Check for doneness by making sure the meat closest to the bone is fully cooked. Important piece of advice: keep a window open…yikes! Remove from grill & serve.