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Ooh, Barracuda!

Ben Sargent
Every episode of Hook, Line & Dinner needs a theme, and tonight’s is danger. And no, the threat isn’t the poisonous lionfish or the large sharks I swam with. It’s the barracuda, and not because of their size and sharp teeth and penchant for chasing after swimmers.

Throughout the episode, I make light of the foodborne illness ciguatera. Tourists to the Bahamas are very concerned with it while the locals believe it’s just a bunch of hogwash. The illness is said to be carried by large “top-of-the-food-chain” fish that swim in warm water. Symptoms of ciguatera are nasty and can get very serious. It’s hard to diagnose and has become a debatable topic. It’s believed to start with toxic plankton that’s eaten by small fish who are in turn eaten by larger fish. Once you eat that big fish — bam. You’ve got ciguatera.

Ebi, who was my barracuda guide, laughed with a roar every time I brought up the subject. He says it’s easy to tell if a fish has ciguatera: Feed the fish to a cat; if the cat dies , don’t eat the fish. It worried me, then, that I hadn’t seen any cats on the island. When I mentioned that to Ebi, he just laughed again.

Ebi and I Cooking Barracuda

We ended up catching three barracuda and ate the largest. I thought, the bigger the fish, the greater the chances, but Ebi wanted to cook that one so I said nothing.

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