Sunday 15th August 2004
Yesterday morning I went to the beach to help out with a kids’ party. ‘Helping’ consisted primarily of participating in a kayak race with a tiny child as my team-mate (though it was me that was shouting “Again! Again!” as we crossed the finishing line…). Afterwards, I was recovering in the shade with a plastic cupful of iced tea when one of the dads suddenly dangled a blue mesh bag containing the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen in front of my face.
“Do you know what this is?” he demanded.
“No”, I said, for some unknown reason, since I actually had a pretty fair idea what it was.
“Have you never seen one? Don’t you know what it is?”
“It’s a dangerous fish, isn’t it? Poisonous?” I recognised it from photos I’ve seen of animals to avoid in Okinawan waters. It was a stonefish, which is one of the most poisonous of all the sea’s many poisonous things.
“Yeah,” he said, and pointed at the array of horrible spines along its dorsal fin, “it’s really dangerous. Don’t touch these or you’ll be rushed to hospital with a drip in your arm.” He clutched at his throat and pulled a comic, goggle-eyed ‘I’m poisoned!’ face.
“It’s delicious, though,” he added.
This is something I’ve learned: in Okinawa, every living sea creature is apparently delicious, and best eaten on the spot, raw, within minutes of being plucked out of the water. It’s especially delicious if it’s revolting-looking (like a stonefish, a sea-urchin’s innards, or a shellfish the size of a tennis ball) or contains enough poison to fell a bull elephant.
I just saw an advert on tv for an insect spray called “Arse Jet”… Heh heh heh.