Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's Not Flipper!!

If you're from Florida you don't even need to read this post or look at the accompanying picture to know exactly what I'm talking about. Every Floridian, at some point, has had to say to an out of town guest:

"It's not Flipper!!!"

Then they still don't believe you and endless discussions, some involving tears, will ensue for the duration of the guest's stay.

Happens every time. It happened last month when we had visitors here from New Jersey. It's going to happen again in a couple weeks when the next round of Northerners camps out with us for Easter and Passover. It's getting so bad that I'm thinking maybe I won't take my guests out to dinner anymore or if I do, I'll make sure we go to a steakhouse or a BBQ joint where there's no danger of seafood being on the menu to distract them.

South Florida, with our clear, warm seas, has some of the finest seafood in the country. It's fresh, abundant, local and delicious, so naturally as soon as visitors unpack the Hawaiian shirts, slather on their first layer of sunscreen and swig a couple pina coladas, they're hungry for fish.

"Hey where can we get some seafood around here? You know, somewhere not too touristy where the fish is fresh," they'll want to know and I'll oblige.

Once at the restaurant, the guests'll peruse the menu and that's when it hits the fan. Usually they'll blanch, or gasp or both.

"Oh my God," they'll whisper in horror.

I've got the routine down by now. I don't even have to look up.

"It's not Flipper," I'll say.

Once the tears are over and the guest sufficiently calmed, they'll usually go with the salmon just to be safe, even though I tell them the salmon's not local. Sorry, but we don't have sockeyes swimming upstream in the Intracoastal Waterways to spawn down here.

The guests will go home, possibly scarred for life. I imagine their friends asking them how their South Florida vacation went.

"I'm never going back," they'll say.

"Why not?" friends will inquire.


Ok, so yes, it's true. In South Florida, we eat dolphin. Not dolphinS with an S, but dolphin. We eat it blackened, grilled and fried. Jerked dolphin is my favorite, but I'm sure our visiting Canadians, New Yorkers, Midwesterners, etc. think jerked dolphin refers to some unspeakable breeding ritual that goes on behind closed doors (or tanks) at Sea World.

Once again, it's not Flipper.

Dolphin is a fish. A big, flat headed blue and yellow fish that looks a bit like a tuna. Oh you've probably eaten it tons of times and never known it, because the rest of the world calls it by its nonthreatening, made up, wussy Hawaiian name - Mahi Mahi. If you're cool you just go with the one Mahi. It's like Cher or Madonna. But we true South Floridians would never disgrace ourselves by calling our favorite fish by such a ridiculous name. To us, it will always be dolphin.

Lately though, I've noticed fewer and fewer restaurants willing to take the risk and put dolphin on their menus. Mahi Mahi is safer. It saves a lot of time and explanation and probably saves business what with diners walking out in hysterics, sobbing that they wanted to swim with the dolphins when they came to Florida, not francese them.  It makes me sad. When we give in to nonsense like Mahi Mahi, we're losing our unique, cultural identity. Dolphin sandwiches are part of what makes South Florida special and different from the rest of the country.

Plus, when restaurateurs give in to the anti-dolphin pressure, we locals lose the chance to mess with our guests and have a little fun at their expense. Yeah, most of the time we tell them it's not Flipper, but that gets boring.

"You never ate dolphin? It's delicious! Bottlenose meat is the best. What do you think they do when the dolphins get too old to perform at the Seaquarium? They're not letting all that good food just go to waste? Come on, try it."

I'm mean like that.

You'd think the tourists would have enough sense to know that if we were really eating porpoises down here that there would be international outrage. You think "The Cove" was bad. Can you imagine what people would do if we were actually slaughtering their beloved, hoop jumping mammals? Shoot, if that were the case, I'd be out there picketing with PETA to stop it too.

I don't know why we call it dolphin here. It's just one of those things. You know South Florida is a strange place. Once I went to Mexico and went fishing. We caught a dolphin and turned it into ceviche before we even got off the boat. Down there they call it Dorado, because when the fish gets mad, like when it's caught on a line, it turns golden. I like that name. It sure beats Mahi Mahi, and no matter how much it scares tourists, I'll always have the dolphin.


Misha said...

We eat it here in California too. It's delicious! It's about 50-50 dophin/mahi mahi as far as what it's called on the menus or in the stores. I remember my parents making Flipper noises as they served it/ate it at home as a kid. I come from odd people.

jennifer said...

been reading for years and you have never said anything mean - that wasnt deserved

Faye said...

When I visited my cousins in Florida last summer I saw this on the menu in one of their local eateries. I figured if Floridians want to eat dolphin, its none of my business. I had shrimp.

FreeDragon said...

dolphin is delicious. I've eaten it once when my uncle went fishing in FL and brought some home in a cooler. It was a special treat.

catherine said...

I couldn't eat it. It's right up there with eating horsemeat, or cute animals like lambs and bunnies. But thats just me. I'm weird like that.

Wide Lawns said...

Catherine, it's not dolphins like you're thinking. It's a regular fish. It's mahi mahi everywhere else. Calling mahi mahi dolphin is just a Florida colloquialism. To us dolphin is a fish and porpoise is the mammal.

Anonymous said...

Ummmm ok. I googled mahi mahi and that is one ugly fish. I could totally eat that! LOL! You were kinda freaking me out when you said you ate dolphins.

Dayna said...

I never realized Mahi Mahi is Dolphin. I am originally from south La. and love love love seafood, so if someone said we were having dolphin I'd say "great".

Could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE repost the recipe for your home made yellow cake, I wrote it down but can't find it. I did find "Uncle Bull's Ex Wife's Best Dip Ever" which I have not made yet.

Calitri said...

If you're from a coastal state, you should know the difference between dolphin the fish and dolphin the mammal. Growing up on the Chesapeake Bay, you're taught these things.

We make the ceviche with fresh caught rockfish. It's amazing.

CenFLFan said...

My three favorite fish...dolphin, cobia, and wahoo (not sure how that is spelled).

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster who mentioned that if you are from a coastal area, you should know the difference. They have been serving (Mahi-Mahi) up in the Northeast for years. Restaurants used to call it "dolphin" on the menu and then it changed to Mahi-Mahi (once again, a result of societal pressure). When I first heard of it (I think I was in high school or early college) the server gently explained that it wasn't the "Flipper" kind of dolphin but a type of fish that swims in warmer waters. I said, oh, OK, and that was that. (I do not recall if I had it or not that day, but I have since, and it is good eatin'!)

Kirby said...

I'm from Michigan but have an Uncle and Aunt in Orlando, another in Stewart and Grandparents in Key Largo. I've spend many spring vacations in Florida and always look forward to fresh dolphin fish. After a long winter in Michigan I'm ready for the dolphin fish and stone crab!

About Me

Blog Archive