Many years ago, we were approached by the owner of the Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis, created by Beaux Theriot, to manufacture a line of products under his Oasis trademark. We did, but eventually we bought the brand and even hired his brother-in-law, Jay Gans, to come to work for us. He had great connections in the grocery world and became a truly great team member, stellar salesman and a dear friend. As a result, we began staying at one of Beaux’ homes overlooking Acapulco Bay. Directly across this beautiful bay stood the hotel at which John and Jacqueline Kennedy had spent their honeymoon in September ’53. Acapulco was once the home of Johnny Weissmueller or Tarzan. Rita Hayworth even filmed the Lady from Shanghai there in ’47. Acapulco was once the top tourist destination of Mexico—today, it is not even among the top ten, but it is still our favorite vacation spot.
On our first trip, one of Beaux’ employees, Cicilio, met us at the airport upon our arrival and took us to our lodgings. In fact, he began to take us anywhere we wished to go—the beach, the market, shopping, even taking the Fischer kids to spend a day with his grandkids. Over the years, during our many visits, Cicilio has become like family. We have visited archaeological sites few know exist and, of course, the area’s beautiful beaches. Most recently, Tequila distilleries deep in the jungles, just for Dietz. It is always nice having Cicilio by our sides as he navigates us through the beautiful country of Mexico. We’ve chartered boats together for day-long excursions culminating with watching the famous cliff diver show from the water below. The divers swim out to our boat to collect their well-earned gratuities before they dive, and tell us exciting stories about their careers. Cicilio is one of those individuals one grows to like instantly. He now has one daughter living in Austin. So, for him to visit Fredericksburg is not an uncommon occurrence.
In Acapulco, Cicilio introduced us to his home-made ceviche, a dish that he makes, to our astonishment, using a Fanta Orange drink. Besides, having the best Margaritas made anywhere right in our own bar, Cicilio’ s Ceviche has become one of the many things we enjoy down Acapulco Way. It is served with Mexico’s tastiest chips, but then I have never eaten a chip I haven’t liked, or, if you prefer, saltine crackers. Cicilio’s ceviche is a dish to which we looked forward on each and every visit—whether eaten at home, on a boat or at the beach, it is the best.
Ceviche is a specialty of Central and South America, particularly in the Spanish-speaking countries of Ecuador, Peru, and, of course, Mexico. It consists simply of raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice, olive oil, and spices. One can find an endless number of variations.
When fish is cooked by heat, the main effect in terms of food-chemistry is that its protein is ‘denatured’. The citric acid in lemons or limes has a similar effect, although this is not called ‘cooking’. So, the shrimp, fish, squid, etc., are essentially raw. This ‘cooking’ typically takes place by letting it rest— chilled, over-night is best. One may call it marinating which is an ancient practice and was also known in Europe since ancient Roman times. Acidic foods such as lemons, wine, and vinegar have always been used with raw seafoods to neutralize any bacteria present. Whether anyone understood the concept of bacteria back then is an entirely different matter.
It is thought by some that the technique of macerating raw fish and meats in vinegar, citrus, and spices was perhaps brought to the Americas from Spain and was linked to the Muslim heritage found in much of Spanish cuisine. Not true. Archaeological findings indicate that something like ceviche may have been consumed in Peru nearly 2,000 years earlier! That’s 500 B.C.!
Ceviche was first called Sebiche in 1820 when a song named “Chicha,” was sung by Spanish soldiers which included the lyrics: “Bring the Sebiche,…which invites and excites us to drink…” Need one to wonder why? Yet, remarkably, Ceviche, was generally widely despised by Spaniards throughout their nearly four centuries of rule. It appears that the elite among the Spaniards beginning ruling areas once governed by the Incas generally preferred and pursued French culinary trends. Yet, today, Ceviche is these nations’ flagship recipe and Peruvian chefs, in particular, now promote this dish in remote cities around the world. What happened, one might ask, that made Ceviche so remarkably popular today? The answer seems to lie in events that took place far across the Pacific.
It seems that in 1894, the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War caused many Japanese to immigrate, of all places, to Peru. Waves of Japanese settled on Peruvian farms. There, the Japanese transformed Peruvian cuisine. Being accustomed to eating raw fish, they reinvented ceviche by using cilantro, celery, and ginger. The resulting explosion of flavors liberated ceviche like never before – food revolutions do still happen. Presto! We have modern Ceviche. It appears the Spaniards had never understood the appeal of this amazing dish.
In Mexico, shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna, and mackerel are the most popular ingredients for ceviche. Typically, the marinading components frequently used include salt, lemons, limes, onions, chili peppers, avocado, and cilantro. Traditional ceviche is marinated for about three hours. Modern-style ceviche may require less time but is not recommended. And please note that acid marinades will not kill bacteria or parasitic worms. The American Dietetic Association urges women to avoid consuming ceviche during pregnancy. However, if you are a fan of Beef Tartar or if you grew up snitching bites of sausage stuffing while it was being made—you will enjoy this. Do prepare and refrigerate it overnight before serving. Also get a package of freshly-baked Hilda’s chips and enjoy with your favorite Sauvignon Blanc—even better, an ice-cold Margarita!
1 purple onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
10 olives without pits, chopped
3 cups orange juice if the shrimp and/or fish is raw or juice of 7 lemons if the shrimp and/or fish is cooked
Juice of 4 lemons
2 cups catsup
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
4 tsp olive oil
1 small serrano chili, chopped fine
Oregano to taste
2 lbs. deveined shrimp (no tails) or chopped fish
1 can orange Fanta soda
Wash the shrimp and fish well, cover with orange juice to marinate.
Pour the catsup into the marinade.
Combine the onion, tomato, cilantro, serrano, and olives in a large bowl.
Add the shrimp/fish and mix well.
Lightly heat the oregano in a pan and add it to the ceviche.
In a separate pan, heat garlic and olive oil.
Bring to a light boil stirring constantly until the garlic turns golden brown.
Remove from heat and stir into the ceviche mixture.
Refrigerate over night or at least 4 to 5 hours before serving.
Before serving add one can of chilled, Orange Fanta!
Stir and mix well.
Serve with chips and salt.