Fishy Story II

So, as anyone can imagine, that documentary put a big damper on my appetite for Pangasius.  I could not find the organic version in any of my neighborhood stores and for a while, I went back to the bone-y fish, to a whole lot of complaining from the kids.  But I did not give up on it completely.  After all, isn’t almost all the produce we buy contaminated in some form or other.  The old saying comes to mind, “Everything in moderation”, applies too.

Here in Greece we have these great street markets which take place once a week in each neighborhood.  There are about 50 to 100 vendors , depending on your area and they sell every vegetable and fruit, as well as herbs, spices, kitchen supplies, dry goods from lentils to noodles, fresh eggs, honey and bee pollen, fresh flowers and potted plants, some sell home-made wines and olive oil, there is a section with different clothing items from jackets to undies, lots of <<fake>> products, there’s a vendor with candies and nuts AND there are fresh fish mongers but also one who sells frozen fish and the salt dried & stored Greek version of Cod, Bakaliaros.  During my brothers visit this summer, we took him and his family for the weekly shopping and browsing through the Bazaar style section, as part of showing the TOURISTS the sights.  The kids were bored of course, shopping unless it is for toys holds no interest for them.

Personally, Thursday, is my favorite day of the week, cause it is street market day.  Unless it’s raining cats and dogs, I buy all my fruit and vegetables for the week at the market.  I have known most of the vendors for ever…it is a great place to listen to people talk politics, complain about the government, impending strikes and listen to the way they advertise their products, some, I suspect are closet poets, mixing rhymes of produce with their political affiliations.  In short it is a real life REALITY show.

On that shopping spree with my brother and family, as we were walking along the market stalls, we passed the fish mongers stands.  Especially in the summer, you know you are getting close, just by smell.  (The vendors set up from before 7 a.m and it comes to an end around 2p.m., when they all pack up their trucks and leave and the garbage collectors come for the clean up).  The fish are grouped together on a wooden box, sitting on top of crushed ice, which is heaped on as it melts, dripping on the pavement under the stand.  Here in Athens, the temperatures during the summer mornings start at a balmy 22-24 degrees Celsius, by mid day it’s a boiling 36-40 degrees Celsius…enough to wilt the greenest lettuce…just imagine what the fish is like, even sitting on ice.  As we are strolling past, all kids are holding their noses and pointing at the sad looking fish looking back at them, when I noticed lovely fillets of Pangassius sitting pretty between the so called local fish.  A handmade card, right next to the obvious Pangassisus says:  ΓΛΩΣΣΑ 14.90 Euros.

Now, that got me so mad, that I approached the fish monger and asked him what that was supposed to be.  Simple explanation, “It is sole, local and really fresh”….Really, I mean if that was not a downright lie, then I don’t know what is.  When he asked if I wanted to buy some, I just replied with:  But that is called Pangassius, it comes from Vietnam and it is therefore neither fresh nor local.  Needless to say, he just ushered me on without acknowledging what I said.

From that day on, I started paying more attention to what the fishmongers were selling.  Today, a few months after I first noticed this scheme, almost all the fish vendors at the street markets sell ΓΛΩΣΣΑ/sole for 13,90 to 14,90 Euros a kilo.  Last week, I stopped and looked into the freezers of the frozen fish vendor at the market and saw that he was selling Pangassius as Pangassius for 6 Euros per kilo.  Before I fished out a bag and paid for it, I told him what his colleagues at the other side of the street market were doing.  He just shook his head and said that is ΑΠΑΤΗ, call it fraud, cheating, rip off, trickery or whatever you want.  It is  almost criminal and totally misleading.

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