Fishing for Kefalo

Kefalo, Grey Mullet

Panayotis, the young, blonde cruise ship officer whose mother has a house in Vrissi, picks me up. I was spared the long walk downhill. Though not wanting to believe that I am too lazy to walk down the mountain, but wanting to make connections with people and be friends, I accept his ride and am rewarded when he invites me for a beer at the cafe on the dock. He tells me some of his stories about working on cruise ships, here and in the Caribbean. His last ship burned at it's mooring in Pireaus two weeks ago, the day before he was to begin his duties as safety officer. His company has lost five ships in the last two years, several sinking and the rest to fires, all total losses. They are now having trouble getting insured and will either go out of business or allow themselves to be bought up by a larger company like Carnival. After sharing this with me he pauses and appears to be deep in thought. Then he looks at the sea and the sky and says "I think it's a good time to catch a kefalo."

He goes to the trunk of his new Japanese car where he has bags of stale bread and smelly kefalotiri (literally headcheese and no relation to the fish) and a drop-line with lots of hooks. He wraps the line of hooks around a piece of bread smeared with cheese and throws it out as far as he can. Usually you can see the bread bob up and down as the fish attack it and one or two become ensnared on the sharp little hooks.

Kefalo is not at the top of the Greek fish food chain. In fact it is down towards the bottom, maybe a couple notches above sea slugs and poisonous sand worms. These are the fish you see in the filthiest harbors, surviving on a diet of raw sewage and bread thrown from the tourists at seaside fish tavernas. They are not a bad tasting fish when they come from clean unpolluted areas like Kalohori and actually the best tarama salata comes from kefalo, though not the ones in the harbors.

Panayiotis does not eat the kefalo he catches. He fishes for two reasons: for sport, and to feed them to his cat. And he takes his sport very seriously. However, in a rare moment when Panayiotis is not paying attention, a seagull swoops down and picks up the bread with the barbed hooks and flies off with it. The first thing we both think is that the bird will become hopelessly hooked which will be a disaster of unimaginable proportions. It's hard enough getting a hookout of a small fish, but a screeching flailing seagull is another story. Luckily the bird figures out that something is amiss with this not so innocent piece of bread and drops it about fifty yards out to sea, much further than either of us could have thrown it.

"If only the seagull would help us everyday." says a pokerfaced Panayiotis.

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