Barracuda on the Beach

This is part of a series, Scene from a Memoir.

Barracuda on the Beach

It may have been 20 years late and on the other side of the world, but I walked down a beach and finally found what I’d been looking for.

I used to have a problem, especially with traveling. I would let my expectations soar incredibly high and then be crestfallen when the details didn’t turn out exactly as planned.

I did this often enough that my husband developed an expression for it when he would spot my disappointed face: “What’s the matter, Mar? Barracuda on the beach?”

It all started during a visit to a tiny island off Cancun called Isla Mujeres. I read in a guidebook that if I made my way there I needed to be sure to try the barracuda on the beach.

Soon enough, my romantic imagination was enchanted with a scene torn out of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea: a little fishing boat would dock, and a fisherman would hand over his giant catch to the highest bidder, in this case, the charming little cafe whose chef would grill my barracuda on the spot, sun beating down and seagulls screeching overhead.

We did make our way to this little island, largely due to the fantasy I concocted from the line in the guidebook. It was not easy. We took a long ferry ride and then rented scooters to make it out to the restaurant.

I raced across the sand and read the menu posted on the wall. I looked it over a few times to be sure. There was no barracuda on the menu. I was crushed.

Twenty years passed by. This little tidbit had become a part of my life, so much so that when I taught my seventh graders to write a “Someday … but” poem based on Robert Cole’s “To See Japan,” I shared my “Barracuda on the Beach” poem to model the form:

    Someday I will find my barracuda on the beach….

    A large fish dangles from a weathered scaffold.
    Pointed teeth dare me to try a bite.
    A fisherman’s machete slices off a chunk.
    He slaps it on the grill.
    Lime and cilantro fill the air,
    mixing with the sizzle.
    Lines are cut into his face,
    as his village languidly passes the day.

    He gestures the correct technique –
    Pop a shaving in my mouth
    while it’s still steaming.
    Douse the heat with an ice-cold guzzle,
    as his village languidly passes the day.

    But The Old Man and the Sea is only a story,
    and barracuda isn’t on the menu today.

My children knew the story, too, and we one day found ourselves walking down a beautiful, lazy beach on the little island of Ko Samet in Thailand. Fishing boats came to shore to show the restaurants their day’s catch. We stopped and looked at the freshly-packaged seafood to decide where to eat that night.

I looked at plates filled with fish of all shapes and sizes, ready for grilling. My son Dan tugged at my sleeve and pointed excitedly, saying, “Mom, barracuda on the beach!”

It had taken 20 years, but my “Someday” had come at last.

Restaurant on the Beach, on a trip with G Adventures

(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish


About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

This entry was posted in Food, Scene from a Memoir, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Barracuda on the Beach

  1. Jennifer says:

    ANOTHER great story! I couldn’t wait to read it this morning, and have to say you’ve done it again. I especially liked the part about your son spotting the Baracuda and brining it to your attention. So sweet. Love the family picture too. You guys look so happy! You are so well traveled. I just haven’t found the desire/courage to leave the country!
    Jennifer recently posted..November de-cluttering reportMy Profile

  2. What a fun post. I confess, except for Heart’s version, I’m scared of barracuda.

    Totally blanking on personal disappointments, except the R-rated variety. (He unzips, and then…) I know those weren’t the only ones, but those are all I can *think* of, right this minute. *taps skull* Nope, still empty.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted..Are You Homonym-phobic? #Mancandy & Bear TrapsMy Profile

  3. Rossandra says:

    My mouth is watering! Reminds of the time my ex and I were in Costa Rica and came across a little “open air” restaurant way off the beaten track: a shack next to an open grill and picnic table. A short way down was where we had skirted an inlet filled with caimans (similar but smaller than an alligator). Where my ex had been surfing earlier in the day!

    Anyway, I can’t remember what kind of fish it was, but it came wrapped in foil and was extremely succulent and flavorful. Completing our repast was barbequed corn, a salad with what looks like the same dressing in your picture, a piece of watermelon and a couple of Imperials (Costa Rican beer). Yess!!

    (By the way, I linked up with “my story” above. Didn’t know what I was doing. It just takes you to my website, not “my story.” This might very well be my story, eh?)
    Rossandra recently posted..Mother ChristmasMy Profile

  4. Rahmath says:

    Love the expression your hubby dear uses “barracuda on the beach? “. Don’t you just love the way our better half find the exact words to express our feeling when we ourselves are not able to do it?. A great post. And the meal looks delicious.

    I was raking my brains to find something to link with this prompt but i have already written about it previously. Do the linked posts need to be new???? or can i just link the other one.

  5. Great story! If your “barracuda on the beach” scenario had happened when you wanted it to, it wouldn’t have been as memorable. Instead of sharing the memory with just your husband, you get to share it with your children, as well. This is how family legends are made. Good stuff.

  6. Liz says:

    Thanks for submitting your link to The Carnival of Creativity. It is posted at Please stop by and visit some of the other links in the carnival!

  7. sammy says:

    I will be first to buy the book when your memoirs do get published … I love the stories you tell and think yes I will link up and then my mind goes blank. As so as I have something that fits and is worthy of sharing, I promise I will! xx
    sammy recently posted..Vokda is the Devil…My Profile

  8. Pingback: Carnival of Creativity 12/18/2011 | The Writing Reader

  9. I can sympathize with this sentiment exactly–when we were in Corfu, Greece, we took a taxi, walked forever to an estate that was supposed to have these great ruins (literally a pile of rocks) and a private beach (we had to trek through brambles and nearly fell off a cliff into the ocean). I learned then never to base my adventures 100% out of a guidebook!! But I’m so glad you found your barracuda; what a special moment!

    Thanks for sharing this with us at Rub Some Dirt On It!
    Becky @ Rub Some Dirt On It recently posted..Hodge PodgeMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Oh no, Becky–that sounds terrible. Yes, those guidebooks can create a lot of false expectations. Now I tell my kids that whatever happens happens, and it’s sure to be an adventure. They’re better at really following that attitude than I am, but I’ve come a long way, I think.

  10. Pingback: Up and Down: Travel Bucket List(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

  11. I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to comment on this wonderful post! It really does raise some very important points about expectations, and how the surprising things really can be so much better than the ones that are planned! I’m so glad to hear that you finally got your barracuda on the beach. I bet it tasted amazing. Thank you for sharing this post with the Gallery of Favorites.

  12. That is awesome that you found your barracuda on the beach.
    secret mom thoughts recently posted..Christmas Joy!My Profile

  13. Pingback: Thailand travel photos | | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

  14. Pingback: When the lights flicker on at the Parthenon | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

  15. Okay, that is incredibly cool. Now I want barracuda on the beach.
    I don’t have that problem with traveling, I’m usually just so thrilled I get to be away I don’t let much bother me. My problem is doing this in everyday life. I have expectations that get disappointed, and I can’t let go of them.
    Natalie – The Cat Lady Sings recently posted..Baking on a Friday NightMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      I’m pretty much better now. I tell myself before I leave not to get set on any certain thing, and it actually works. Besides, some of the best times are always the ones that were completely unexpected and unplanned for.

  16. Daniel Nest says:

    It’s kind of poetic, isn’t it? In the “you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for” kind of way. Well, actually quite literally in that way. I no word good.

    The big question is: How WAS the barracuda on the beach?
    Daniel Nest recently posted..10 Things more shocking than Conchita Wurst winning EurovisionMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      “I no word good,” lol. The barracuda was good! I just heard Anthony Bourdain say the other day that anything tastes good when you have sand between your toes, and I gotta agree.

  17. Glad to read that barracuda on the beach is no longer your white whale.
    that cynking feeling recently posted..Beatrix who?My Profile

  18. Karen says:

    I love the poem : )
    Karen recently posted..GoosebumpsMy Profile

  19. Pingback: What I Ate in Thailand | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

Comments are closed.