Two things strike you when spot the pez de San Pedro in fish markets in Costa Brava. The first is, as fish go he’s a real loser in the looks department. This is one ugly fish. The second is that he’s got a strange circular blemish like a bruise on his flank (if fish have flanks).

This blemish is a clue that although San Pedro’s fish is an ugly brute, he makes up for it by coming with a story that makes him much more interesting than the rows of open-mouthed cronies beside him on the crushed iced. His is a tale of biblical proportions.

Forgive my lack of accuracy in the details, but it is the bible so my version is as good as the next scribe’s. When Jesus was being hassled to pay his taxes, he told Peter (Pedro) to go fish and when he caught his first fish to open its mouth. Jesus explained that inside the fish’s mouth Peter would find a coin that he could use to keep the tax collectors happy.

Peter did as he was told. But to open the mouth of the fish, he had to keep a firm grasp on its body. Lo and behold, just as Jesus had predicted, there was a coin in the mouth of the fish.

Overall it was a bit of a bum deal for the fish. Not only did it lose its coin, Peter had held onto it so tightly that his fingers had left a bruise on either side…which has scarred the fish to this day.

On the Cantabrian coast the fish has a different name. In Asturias it’s called the pez de San Martín. It used to be called Pedro’s fish but the story goes that in the 19th century a rich Frenchman called Martín developed an almost obsessive taste for the fish. He liked its flavour so much that he would fork out more for it than for other specimens that were considered far more superior. The local fisherman found this so incredulous that they changed the name to the pez de San Martín as a local joke.

And that is the end of that fishy little tale (tail).

Buzz Trips Fact File: The English name for it, in case you fancy a taste of what seduced Martín’s taste-buds, is the tilapia.

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