Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fish Eyes and African Dogs

Today three more Americans arrived on island from Illinois: Judy Tolliver, my informatics advisor, as well as two Illinois faculty also working for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications doing research about malaria modeling. To somewhat celebrate their arrival we went to a restaurant near the airport which is situated beneath the wings and tail of an old plane.

We ordered fish and although I had heard that the eyeball is considered the best part of a fish in Sao Tome, I had yet to try it. There was one redfish with the eyes still in their sockets on the fish on the table. Chika and I took the challenge and each scooped out an eyeball.

Now I expected an eyeball to be soft and mushy but television has never deceived me this much. I put the eyeball in my mouth and felt the chewy fleshy part but I also encountered something very hard. I played with it for a second between my teeth and with my tongue before I asked James, our local contact, if it should be this hard and what to do with it; he said you just need to chew hard. I bit down into the consistency of a rock solid Skittle. The ball did not crunch, but slowly smashed between my teeth compressing into the crevices on my molars and finally sticking to my teeth. After a minute I had worked out all of the bits from my teeth and we went on with dinner but it left a taste in my mouth that, although not bad, was not good. Water could do little to wash away the new taste.

At the end of dinner we all had bones scattered with small scraps of fish meat on our plates and two stray dogs and a small cat had been wandering around our outdoor table. James grabbed a fish carcass and was about to throw it to the dogs when many of us Americans stopped him because we worried the dog would choke on the bones. Looking back this city could do with a few hundred less stray dogs but we tried to save these two. James’ response was, “African dogs are very strong,” and he threw down the carcass to waiting mouths. Sure enough the dogs ate it up and looked back at us waiting for more. African dogs are very strong indeed.


  1. Maybe we'll start serving fish eyes at the party house. You're a brave young man, Michael Stein, and quite an accomplished writer. Love your blog!

    I'm heading down to National Conference in the morning. We kick off with Day 1 on Thursday. Na and Hillary are coming down for the weekend.

    Our going away party for Hillary was held last night at Na's. We all wore Indian outfits and had a lady there doing mendhi on our feet and hands. Na made delicious food ... Dad took tons of pictures so I'm sure you'll be able to enjoy them on Facebook.

    We all miss you and wish you could have been at the party.
    xxoo Mom

  2. Eyeballs. You're more adventurous than I.