Saturday, June 28, 2008

3er. MUNDIALITO de Futbol

La Quinta Magazine hosted the 3rd annual Little World Futbol Tournament at Mamitas Beach this last weekend June 21st and 22nd, under beautiful blue skies and next to an even more beautiful blue Caribbean Sea.

A total of 16 countries signed up for the weekend event. Teams were present from Uruguay, Italy, Israel, Mexico, USA, Holland, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, England, Canada, Switzerland, Cuba, Germany and Chile.

The teams were made up of primarily people who are all living here in Playa. Most but not all of them played on the team of their national origin. I saw lots of familiar faces on many of the teams and I never realized how good these people that I pass on the street each day, really are at futbol. I also did not realize how seriously most of them take the game. Soccer or futbol as it is called here, is a really big deal in most of the world except the US and in Playa it is no different. Several of these matches nearly came to blows. Cursing, spitting and kicking sand were the norm in many of the matches. Uruguay, Italy and Argentina in particular all brought far too much testosterone to the beach. My Spanish and Italian vocabulary of filthy names quadrupled over the weekend. I can’t wait to use them. I don’t think I’ll try them on any of the people I learned them from however.

Team USA made a respectable showing but was never a threat. To anyone. They played hard and deserve credit for even going out on the sand but alas they were doomed from the get go. With three consecutive losses to Israel, Argentina and England, the USA was eliminated without scoring a single goal. I’m sure they’ll regroup for next year and do much better.

I hope Argentina and Uruguay enter the tournament again next year. Not because I want to see them play but because their female rooting sections had some of the best looking and scantily clad South American beauties to be found. Some of the players had a difficult time keeping their minds and eyes focused on the game. I even found myself distracted once.

Team France had some pretty good players and one excellent one but the one match I watched between them and Uruguay turned into a rout after a 1 to 1 tie part way through the second period turned into a 7 to 1 loss after the French goalie completely crumbled. By the time the match was finished so was he.

Team Canada had a young lady on their team who actually played very well. I think the really hard core teams had a hard time deciding how to handle her or maybe I should say not handle her. She was the only one who did not seem to be bumped, tripped grabbed and kicked. Even the mangler’s from Uruguay and Argentina cut her some slack.

Although I didn’t see the final match for the local championship, I understand it was played between Italy and Israel with the Italians coming out on top here in Playa only to find the true Italian national team was eliminated at about the same time by Spain in the Euro 2008 competition in Germany.

All in all it was a great two days of fun for the locals with wonderful weather both days. I’m sure next year will bring even more teams to the beach.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Catch Of The Day

Mrs. Princess and I went shopping the other day at Walmart (yes we have a Walmart) and as we passed through the seafood department I noticed some big pieces of fish laid out on ice that looked strangely familiar to me but somehow out of place here in Playa del Carmen. Upon closer inspection and reading the sign stuck in the ice I realized I was looking at Alaskan halibut. Being from the Pacific Northwest and great lovers of halibut, Mrs. Princess and I agreed that because it was just such a rare find we would have to purchase some no matter the cost. The halibut pieces were big boneless skinless filets and still frozen. There were a couple of pieces up front that had thawed out and I gave them the old sniff test. Mrs. Princess who wasn’t about to trust my nose gave them the once over herself. “Buy it” she then hastily commanded while pointing at some of the frozen pieces.

Back in Oregon we would pay anywhere from $7.00 a pound to as much as $15.00 per pound for halibut that was practically caught in our own backyard. Well, if there was halibut from Alaska in Playa, we were going to have some and that was that, cost be damned.

I approached the fishmonger and mentally prepared myself for the culinary sacrifices we would need to make in the coming days for the opportunity this rare treat was going to provide us that night however, nothing could have prepared me for the answer I received from the fishmonger. Our conversation was in Spanish so it always takes my mind a few extra seconds to process even simple Spanish conversation. I was promptly informed that the price of the Alaskan halibut was 48 pesos. My mind became a jumbled mass as it tried desperately to decipher what my ears had just heard. “Forty eight pesos” I blurted out. “Why…that’s ridiculous!” I said, which it was, although I only said it because my brain was still trying to figure out how much “cuarenta y ocho pesos” actually was. Once I got my arms around the 48 peso price tag the next step was to find out just how much halibut I would get for 48 pesos which is the US equivalent of about $4.50.

I knew that this was where I was going to get sucker punched and find that 48 pesos was going to buy me a piece of halibut slightly smaller in size than a US one dollar bill. Okay here goes “How much halibut do I get for 48 pesos?” “One kilo” replied the fishmonger. Luckily Mrs. Princess was standing behind me and grabbed me as I stumbled backwards nearly overturning the seafood display table behind me.

I quickly regained my composure and ran the math. At 48 pesos per kilo I would be paying just a few pennies over $2.00 a pound for boneless skinless Alaskan halibut filets. Suddenly I heard myself blurting to the fishmonger “We’ll take everything you’ve got.” The fishmonger nodded appreciatively if not somewhat surprisedly and opened the large door to the freezer just behind him. Just inside was a large unopened box about 4 feet square and 4 feet high. He pried the lid from the box exposing what appeared to me at the time to be all of the frozen halibut that could have come out of Alaska in the last sixty days. I told Mrs. Princess to stay with the fishmonger and to keep a close eye on him. I didn’t want to take any chance of messing this up. She asked where I thought I was going and I said “Over to the appliance department to look at freezers!”

Over in the freezer department I found that I would need to purchase at least two very large freezers to hold all the halibut that we were going to buy. Suddenly, the old brain came out of shock and began functioning partially again which is about as much as I can ask of it even on a good day. I could hear it whispering to me “Mike, your losing it. Go back to the fish counter, buy some halibut and go home and have a nice dinner with Ima Princess.” Dejectedly but with the satisfaction that the day was not totally lost, I proceeded back to the counter and explained to Mrs. Princess and the kindly fishmonger that we would not, after all be buying all of the beautiful, boneless, skinless, flash frozen, Alaskan halibut filets that Walmart had to offer. Strangely enough they both took it rather well.

After loading up with three or four large packages of halibut we headed home with our catch of the day. For the next three days, we would eat halibut at night and I would go back to Walmart early the next morning to buy even more packages of halibut. The first two days went well but on the third, the fishmonger's freezer was bare. No more beautiful, boneless, skinless, flash frozen, Alaskan halibut filets. Knowing that I still had a goodly supply at home in the freezer made me happy and knowing that Walmart didn’t have any more for me to buy and bring home made Mrs. Princess happy. I guess it was a win, win. I didn’t tell Mrs. Princess that the fishmonger told me they would have more soon.

Needless to say we’ve been eating a lot of halibut prepared in a number of different ways and I’m going to share with you the absolute easiest way to prepare this delicious fish. It’s also one of our favorite ways to eat it. I know some of you may be a little skeptical of some of the things I have just told you however, this recipe is 100% legit. You can easily make this entire recipe in less than ten minutes. I would never ask anyone to ruin a good piece of halibut. Here is what you need and what you do:

There are only 4 ingredients needed for this preparation. The first two ,

Juice of 1 lemon or lime (we only get limes down here)
4 or 5 tablespoons of butter.


Squeeze the lemon or lime juice into a small glass dish. Stick the butter in with the lime juice and heat in the microwave until the butter melts, 20 or 30 seconds. This should be more than plenty for two people.

Now the fun part:


Pour a 2 liter bottle of 7UP or Sprite into a large saucepan. Put it on the stove and bring it to a simmer.

Cut the beautiful, boneless, skinless, flash frozen but now thawed, Alaskan halibut filets into small bite sized pieces about 1 to 1 ½ inches square.

Bring the 7UP or Sprite to a boil, add the halibut pieces to the pan and wait until they start to float. This will only take a very short time. A minute or two will be sufficient. Maybe three if you are really cooking a large quantity. If you overcook the halibut it will be very dry and you will not enjoy it nearly as much.

Drain the halibut and you’re ready to go. Make sure everything else is ready because the halibut should be eaten as soon as it is finished cooking. Dip one piece into the lemon butter, then put it into your mouth and the rest is pretty self explanatory.

This is so good that I recommend that you allow at least 8 ounces of halibut for each person. If you don’t eat it all at one sitting, put the leftovers in a Ziploc with a little of the lemon butter, refrigerate overnight and you’ll have some incredibly delicious, chilled lemon flavored halibut snacks the next day.

You can also use any other firm fleshed white fish like monkfish or wahoo but we think halibut is the best.

Buen provecho!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tragedy On The Oregon Coast

Every once in a while there are things that do not happen in Playa that are still noteworthy. This is one of them. After reading this terrible Associated Press report about this incredibly sad incident in Charleston Oregon, I felt compelled to share it with you on my blog space. Being from Oregon, I know that this was a highly unusual and random cruel act perpetuated by by two young, deranged youths (probably from out of state). All I can say is when you read this, you'd better have your Kleenex handy.
First reported by Associated Press, Friday June 13th, 2008
Men fillet Charlie the Tuna statue in Oregon
What began as a prank ended with a
sort of chain-saw massacre
Lisa Campbell and her mother, Mel Campbell, look over the pieces of Charlie the Tuna on June 6 behind a fire station in Charleston.
CHARLESTON, Ore. - It turns out the fate of Charlie the Tuna of Charleston, Ore., was sorry indeed.
The 8-foot Monterey cypress sculpture that used to greet visitors to the coastal fishing town was filleted by two young men who stole it as a prank and then, panicked
they would be found out, took chain saws to it.
Not that Charlie would have lasted much longer anyway, the town learned, what with the way bugs and rot had hollowed out his innards.
The statue stood beside the South Slough Bridge into Charleston until Mark Santos and Marvin Terry Jr. swiped it last month.
"We had planned to wait a little while and then leave Charlie in a random place in town where he could be returned unharmed," they said in an apology letter published in The World of Coos Bay.
But someone tipped off sheriff's deputies, who started nosing around. Santos and Terry rushed to their hiding place and tried to move Charlie. But the statue wouldn't fit in their truck.
"We decided to chop him up so we could move him," they said. "This was not pre-planned."
Deputies caught them in the act and charged them with theft and criminal mischief.
Mel Campbell of the merchants association had painted Charlie many times over the years — he was in blue with an orange hat, after the StarKist ads' Charlie.
Santos has paid her a visit, and Campbell is asking for leniency.
"This was just a terrible, dumb, stupid prank that went absolutely wrong," she said.
A wake is planned Saturday at the town's visitors center. The Wild Women of Charleston and the Tuna Guys will offer musical moments. The remains are to be burned and buried at the center.
Mourners are invited to share stories about Charlie, and tuna recipes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Banana Plant, Tree, Whatever!

So……. I live in a tropical climate, right? Right. Tropical climates have coconut palm trees, right? Right. Tropical climates also have banana trees, right? Wrong. Tropical climates have banana plants because there is no such thing as a banana tree. Mrs. Princess and I have been watching the banana plant right outside our patio closely for the last two years or so and I finally decided it was time to learn a little more about this most interesting plant. We‘ve been lucky to watch the plant develop as it grew up to us rather than as it grew away from us. All the big banana action has been right at the level of our second floor terrace. We’ve watched this one grow since it was a baby after I accidently killed the full grown mother plant with a single errant chop from my machete two years ago. When I told Mrs. Princess (aka Cupcake) what had happened, she immediately called me inside, pried my machete from my hand and advised me to grow up. She still has my machete hidden away and to this day refuses to tell me of its whereabouts. When George Washington confessed to purposely cutting down a cherry tree he became a general, a hero and a President. I make one little tiny miscue with my machete on a banana plant tree and it’s all over for me. At least I still have my Swiss Army knife on my keychain.

Now that “the baby” is a full grown plant complete with sixty or so bananas, I decided to study up on the internet for fifteen or twenty minutes and now consider myself to be a leading authority on banana tree plants. Are you ready for this? The italicized comments are some of the information that I stole, I mean learned from the internet.
“Banana plants are the world's largest herbaceous plants.” More importantly, herbaceous is a really great word and I was lucky to be able to use it here. Someday, I may even know what it means.

“By combining a small tree's stature with enormous yet graceful leaves, banana plants provide an unmistakably tropical look.” I thought this was a rather obvious and useless statement but it must have been important because the person I copied it from has a PhD in banana tree plants. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt here because besides having a PhD, he has a lot of other abbreviations after his name as well and I don’t have any after mine. For this reason and this reason only, I am going to include his statement in my article. However, I think that I will begin looking for some better sources of information for the rest of my article, I mean thesis. One thing this guy got right is the leaves. They really are enormous and they really are very graceful and attractive. Some of the leaves on our tree are 12 feet long. The leaves grow incredibly fast as they unfurl from a tightly wound, compact stem into a huge beautifully dark green leaf seemingly overnight. That last sentence was all mine. What a great sentence. Who needs a PhD?

Okay….. Here’s a few more comments I took from Mr. Know It All. Notice how he’s really hung up on this “worlds largest herbaceous plant” thing. This is already the second time he’s used it in just a couple of minutes. If I see this word one more time, so help me, I’m getting out my dictionary.“Bananas, the genus Musa, are the world's largest herbaceous plants, and around 50 species can be found from tropical Africa, India and southeast Asia to northern Australia. The family Musaceae also includes Ensete with six species. Species and cultivars from higher altitudes or latitudes tend to be the best for growing outdoors in the UK.Musa have huge, paddle-shaped leaves that are prone to shredding by the wind, a natural damage-limitation device to prevent the whole leaf being broken off in tropical storms. The leaves split into parallel strips at right angles to their stout central midrib, which can look untidy but they still function effectively. Wind resistance varies considerably between species and cultivars.The stout central 'trunk' that leads to bananas being regarded as trees is not woody, but made up of tightly wrapped leaf bases, so botanically is classed as a pseudostem. The growing point, at the tip of the true stem, remains deep inside the pseudostem at the base of the leaves, and in this respect bananas are broadly analogous to bearded iris and canna. Each shoot is monocarpic, dying after flowering, but basal suckers take its place.”

Blahh…. Blah….. Blah……. What a windbag. I could have said all of that in a couple of sentences without using all the big words that he probably just made up to sound smart. He must think we’re stupid. Everyone knows that a pseudostem is just a fake name. And… who gives a rip about growing banana tree plants in the UK? Ever since I read this statement I’ve tried to envision a banana plant next to the Tower of London and no matter how hard I try I just can’t make it happen. If God wanted banana tree plants in the UK he would have put them there a long time ago. Also I think the way this guy throws in the phrase “basal suckers” at the end of the paragraph is really tacky. I don’t know what a “basal sucker” is but I very seriously doubt that it has anything to do with a banana. Okay, that’s it. I’m done with this guy.

Here are some things that I know about bananas:

If you step on a banana peel you will slip.

Green bananas do not taste good. Ever.

It is hard to eat a banana gracefully.

It is a myth that brown bananas should be kept to make banana bread. They should be thrown away. You will never make the banana bread and the bananas will simply rot on your kitchen counter.

The little stringy things along the side of a peeled banana are very annoying and there is always a decision to be made as to whether or not to eat them.

Trying to pull the little stringy things away from the side of a peeled banana will as often as not result in breaking off half of the banana and watching it fall to the ground.

Bananas cut from the plant all ripen at once and you must be prepared to eat a LOT of bananas.

Bananas cut from the plant also turn brown immediately after they turn yellow and you already know what you need to do with brown bananas.

The “Banana Republic” is an overpriced clothing store that sells clothes that wrinkle very easily.

Strangely a “banana belt” is not a clothing item at Banana Republic but a geographic term describing a warmer region of a typically cooler area.

Here in Playa a banana is left unpeeled and squished in the hands until the inside is a mush. Then the top is cut off and the insides are squished into the mouth. I haven’t tried it yet but I am thinking about it.

The average American eats 28 pounds of bananas a year. Someone else must be eating most of mine.

In 1516, Friar Tomas sailed to the Caribbean bringing banana roots with him and planted them here in the tropics, thus beginning the banana's future in American life. Nice guy.

Once the main plant produces its fruit, it dies. The next one that will take its place is already half grown before the first one dies. This cycle repeats itself over and over. We are getting ready for more bananas.

Sadly, a couple of days ago the second mother plant was cut down by the gardeners. The baby plant is now about six feet high. The watch begins. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!

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