Málaga: Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Just a Fish

So a waiter ate off my plate this weekend. With his hands. No permission, no warning, nada. As a former American waitress, I was in complete and utter SHOCK. So was Amanda and Clare, my two American friends. All three of our jaws dropped to the sand. Now, there’s more to the story of course. But here’s a bit of the background. Close your eyes and picture this… You are in Málaga. You and your friends have just had a (not so) long morning bathing in the crystal clear Mediterranean water and soaking up the rays of the hot Spanish sun. Hard life, right? So naturally, all that sweaty work bronzing and you have worked up an appetite. Well, you are in luck! Look no further than where the sand meets the sidewalk, because there is a long line of Chiringuito’s, or fresh fish beach bars, waiting for you. You don’t even have to open your eyes. Just follow the wafting smell of the fresh fish frying on the charcoal fire… But let me warn you. It’s all fun and games until your waiter brings over your plate of fish, places it in front of you, and your meal is staring back at you…WITH EYES. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Now, don’t be alarmed. Because once you get past the initial shock of your food having eyes and you are able to put it in your mouth, it actually tastes pretty darn good. However, at the time I didn’t have the luxury of a nice American blogger to warn me about my lunch, nor to tell me how to tackle it. So when our smirking Spanish waiter, Carlos, brought over my plate of sardines a l’espeto, I panicked. Clare and Amanda panicked. And Carlos laughed. The other waiters huddled around our table to giggle and gawk at us, as we stared at the plate as if a martian just landed on our table. So, Carlos, unbeknownst, dips his hands into my plate and says “mira-” and eats the whole fish. Just like that. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Well ladies and gentleman, we sure ain’t in America. After getting over the initial shock of my fish having eyes and my waiter stealing food off my plate, I picked up a sardine and ate one. And another. And another. Next thing I know my plate is empty, and all that is left is the rind of my lemon, and some fish bones. And of course, the evidence on my cuenta (no, they did not discount the sardines off my check! #ifthiswasamerica) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA So for all ya’ll adventurous eaters like myself, here are step-by-step instructions on how to eat sardines a l’espeto (so your waiter doesn’t have to show you):

1) Pick it up (duh)

2) Bend it downward so it makes a bridge formation

3) The fishy meat-goodness should flake off of the bone justtttt enough to get you started

4) Eat all of the meat that comes off of the central part of the body. Skin included (that’s the best part!). Leave the tip of the tail and the head behind.


Note: It’s not initially as easy as it sounds… And that was just my first Chiringuito experience of the weekend. At least for my second, I knew to expect the unexpected. Day 2 of Málaga, I was determined to try another Chiringuito delicacy. So, I made friends with a Chiringuito fish frier, Fernando, in hopes that he would enlighten me on some of his fishy ways.

Hola Fernando!
Fernando, The MAN. Or should I say El Hombre…

And enlighten me, he did. He gave me a tour of his frying cabana, showed me how he prepares the fish, and explained to me that all of the fish comes from the local Málaga fish market every morning, which arrives at 4 AM right off the boat. He then surprised me at my table with a regalo, or a gift. Some freshly grilled pulpo, or octopus. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Yup, that’s an octopus alright. Here we go again… Fernando told me to eat the whole thing. No directions included (nor a demonstration). Just put the whole thing in your mouth. So I did. And #yummoo! It tasted just like fried calamari that we all know and love, but fresher, without the fried stuff, and with a back taste of the charcoal grill. Mmmmmmmm. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA So my lesson to you? Just eat it. If you absolutely must, close your eyes if the eye contact you are making with your fish has you feeling uncomfortable. But eat it. It doesn’t bite 😉

SALUD! To a #foodventure well done
And SALUD! To a #foodventure well done.


Have you had a shocking food experiences? Ever been afraid of your food? Sharing is caring, tell us down below!

10 thoughts on “Málaga: Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Just a Fish

  1. As a resident Malagueño, I think I would have been weirded out by the hands on demonstration on how to eat espetos de sardinas. (I liked your apostrophe bit, it frenchified the word in a way I would have never thought possible) The Catalan in me is probably somewhere in the back of my head complaining about the eighty cents you were made part with… but what the heck. You got a nice experience. In Cádiz I went to a very small restaurant run by an old lady who told me off for not finishing my plate and refusing to bring desert until I had eaten everything. Yup she tought she was her customers’ granny. This guy treated you like a granddaughter.

  2. food with eyes? and what do you think burgers, bacon and so on are made of? do you think they grow like that in the supermarket? they were animals too. you should try visiting a slaughter house to see what you´re eating…

    1. Now that the Eyes debate is out there, I have been using the eyes bit in my classes for a while. Fish served with eyes is shocking for Americans and that’s it. We are shocked by other things. The pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyworld sing “We serve fish with the eyes still on, so they’ll see you through the week” Americans are not used to it. An American friend once said “you guys don’t just serve the fish, but all the other things” meaning the skin and bones etc. Meaning that “fish” is the white stuff inside fish fingers. They have never been served fish like that. Jim Gaffigan devotes quite a chunk of his “Beyond the pale” to talk about fish etc.

      1. Alberto, you’re exactly right! It’s just not something that happens in the US. But by the end of my 8 months in Spain, I was not only used to it, but lovin’ eyes on my plate. It’s just a matter of cultural customs and what you’re accustomed to!

        1. True Dat. Loved your bloggy-thingy. Over the yearsI have had the honor of teaching alongside many “auxiliares” (I am assuming you once were one) and the quality of the cultural experience for everyone involved was amazing. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  3. Jaja que gracia y que cuirso!! No se como llegué a este blogg!! Pero ese chiringuito esta justo delante de mi casa jejejeje. Te recomiendo el restaurante que se encuentra justo en frente, Restaurante Apolo. Es lo mejor de Málaga!!

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