Driving home for Christmas… and some monkfish

I’ll be going home for Christmas in a week. I cannot wait!

I aim, in the short 12 days of my Holiday break, to soak up as much as I can. It’s a big task: I have a long list of things to do… and eat.

Portugal has many Christmas gastronomic traditions and I will partake in many, but the one I am craving the most involves the ugliest yet tastiest fish ever – the monkfish.

With its enormous flat head and bumpy skin, you can hardly believe one can eat it. But believe me, when I tell you that this fish is very tasty. In the past, monkfish was considered the poor man’s lobster due to its exquisite flavour and cheap price. But now, this meat has become more popular and appreciated making the species more vulnerable to over-exploitation (source: Marine Conservation Society).

Monkfishes (anglerfishes*, in general) remind me of an ancient, pre-historic, quasi-mythological creature. An animal that lurks in the deeps of the sea, hidden in the darkness ready to mercilessly attack its prey.

These amazing creatures typically have another remarkable feature: a fleshy growth from the fish’s head which can move in all directions acting as a lure. Hence the name  – angler fish.

Remember, Finding Nemo?

Scary Anglerfish meets Dory and Marlin in Finding Nemo
Scary Anglerfish in Finding Nemo. From http://disney.wikia.com.

Yep… Look at that bait! Yikes!!!

Anglerfish will wiggle their scary fishing rod to make it resemble a prey. When the poor victim is close enough, the jaws reflexively close and the anglerfish devours it.

Thanks to the upward-pointing mouths with inwardly inclined teeth, the poor prey easily glides towards the stomach unable to escape. Anglerfishes are voracious: they are able to distend both their jaw and their stomach and swallow prey up to twice their entire body size! Thanks Wikipedia for fueling my nightmares.

Some deep-sea anglerfish will even emit light from their luring device to attract prey. This light results from the symbiosis with certain bacteria (bioluminescence)

And that’s not all with anglerfish! But I think I’ll leave their weird reproduction methods for another time…

Sweets dreams, my friends. And, I hope I haven’t spoiled your appetite.

I would love to hear of any (creepy) traditions you might have. Do they involve weird creatures like the monkfish?

Cheers, Gisela

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*The name anglerfish encompass all fishes from the order Lophiiformes. Monkfishes are from the family Lophiidae – a subset of this group.

Top image from yours truly. My city Coimbra.

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