River fish of the Amazon basin

Over stretches of time that most of us readers and writers of cookery books would scarcely comprehend, the Amazon has shuffled and reshuffled its surrounding landscape, forming lakes where water once flowed and causing myriad river creatures to branch off genetically. Then again, riverbanks crumble as often as they rise. Lakes are reversed no less than created. Having split off, the fauna re-mingles, an evolutionary to-and-fro that has endowed the Amazon basin with astonishing biodiversity. In the lands that are now Brazil and neighbouring countries, thousands of endemic fish species have sustained Indigenous Peoples for millennia. In recent centuries and decades, the creolization of human populations and the expansion of gastronomic frontiers have de-enclaved some of these fish, bringing them to tables further afield. Yet overall, the fish of the Amazon are of that place and of nowhere else. When, early in 2021, a pirarucu was found floating in the waters off Florida, it was feared the southern US state had to contend with yet another invasive species. But it’s far more likely the fish had been kept as an exotic pet and was discarded there lifeless.

The interview River fish of the Amazon basin

River fish of the Amazon basin River fish of the Amazon basin River fish of the Amazon basin
I’m glad at least one of you could make it.

Yes, unfortunately tambaqui and surubí were otherwise engaged. At least, I know that’s the case for tambaqui. Surubí didn’t get back. I’m slightly worried, in fact – we don’t see much of surubí lately. Overfishing, you know…

I’m well aware, sadly. You, though, pirarucu, staged a comeback that’s little short of spectacular.

I know. Goes to show what sound policies can do, eh? Especially when they’re made with local people, rather than against them.

… and that you were once a young fighter from the Nala nation, vain and evil-doing, who was punished by the gods.

If so, it was a long time ago. I wouldn’t remember. I came close to extinction, as you suggested earlier. There was hardly anyone left to keep species memory alive. In any case, if I did anything wrong, I’m sorry. You know what they say about not revisiting the sins of the fathers.

Of course. Before we conclude, as tambaqui couldn’t make it – would you like to say a few words on its behalf?

Actually, I have a message from tambaqui, let me read it to you. “Please send fruit and nuts.”

There’s a notion that you’re a lot like cod on the plate…

Perhaps. But we don’t intersect. I’m purely a river creature.

I’m not sure I have any.

Well, it was worth a try.