We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat. Psalm 73: 4, 23-25 (NIV)
Remember the Star-Kist Tuna commercials where Charley proclaims tuna to be the “chicken of the sea?” While tuna might be the white meat chicken of the sea, Floridians know a dark meat version of fish, the mullet, is more flavorful. It is a gamey, oily fish with lots of little bones, but high in protein and Omega 3 making it very nutritious. Mullet, which once congregated so abundantly in the bays and saltwater rivers of Florida that you could throw a bucket over the side of a boat and get enough for dinner, have long kept Floridians fed. In the 1700s, Cuban fisherman established ranchos along the water’s edge, netting mullet, mackerel and other shallow water fish, salting or drying them and shipping them back to Cuba as a source of protein for sailors and islanders. Mullet and tomatoes kept many Florida families alive during the Depression of the 1930s. When FDR was striving for a chicken in every pot, Florida had a mullet in every frying pan. Despite a couple of years when the mullet disappeared, people of that era frequently give thanks for the provision of mullet. Even in recent times, families have subsisted off the fish. Husband’s father, a mechanic at a car dealership, often faced difficulties feeding his family during summer’s lean times when snowbirds were north and money was hard to find. Husband remembers many a night when he stood beside his dad on a seawall scanning the water for the telltale ripple or flash indicating the presence of a school of mullet. He knew they would not leave until the cast net was full. Otherwise, there would be nothing on the table for supper. We don’t depend upon this gift of the sea to fill our plates, nevertheless, we are trying to cut back our grocery bill so are grateful when friends bestow a mess of mullet upon us. Particularly when it is already smoked or filleted. Husband prefers his mullet smoked. In the fall, mullet festivals abound in our area and fisherman compete for the title of best smoked mullet. In August and September, they perfect their craft, and we are happy to be taste testers for them. But, while tasty, the tiny bones of the whole smoked fish drive me crazy, so I prefer my mullet filleted and deboned. It has to be a really good friend who provides you with deboned filets! Lately, I have been trying to increase my intake of Omega 3 and while I often rely on pills, this week, that won’t be necessary. Last night, we had smoked mullet while tonight, it was fried. Tonight’s filets were outstanding. Our friend even peeled the skin off so they weren’t as gamey. Just the way I like them. With a side of hush puppies, grits, (I’m old fashioned about my grits, no cheese or garlic, just butter and salt), peas and a salad, we had a tasty, nutritious dinner that was inexpensive as well. Just like other Floridians, I am mindful that such a feast is a gift. Bounty from the sea, and heaven as well.