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In this episode of “Explore With Swim” for 2022, SI Swimsuit model Hunter McGrady dives deep into indigenous culture, visiting the Palmento Grove Eco Cultural and Fishing Lodge on Garifuna Island in Belize, to learn some practiced survival skills, handed down through the ages.
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As a quick introduction, co-owner and director Uwahnie Martinez shares what McGrady will be learning, saying, “We’ll have a fisherman showing you how to throw the net to catch some fish and we’ll be going to our herbal garden and the environment around us that is very rich in things to eat.”
The day starts off with a fishing lesson as McGrady is shown some traditional methods of catching fish with a net. With help from a local fisherman, she snags not only a crab, but also a fish. Afterwards, Martinez explains how to cook the fish via traditional Garifuna methods, i.e. roasting it on a fire. “We look for the dry limbs and dry trees and that is what we will make our fire out of,” she says.
Martinez shows McGrady how to use the bark of the tree as kindling to get the fire going and larger pieces of wood for a longer burn. Using a blend of traditional and modern techniques, they manage to build an impressive fire to cook their meal.
“We don’t want the flame, we just want the heat from the coals,” Martinez says. “So we will allow this to burn down so by the time we collect all our ingredients from the herbal garden, it will be ready to cook the fish.”
In the herbal garden, they collect some basil, oregano, and banana leaves. The basil and oregano will flavor the fish and the banana leaves are essentially a tin foil substitute in which to cook it.
Martinez prepares the fish by stuffing it with the spices and then wraps it in the banana leaves. She then places it on a grill over the fire. She also places some yams and sweet potatoes directly onto the coals to roast.
McGrady and Martinez finally get to enjoy the fruits of their labor once everything is cooked. As they start eating this truly farm-and-sea-to-table meal, McGrady says, “Dare I say this is one of the best meals [I’ve had]?”
“Simplicity,” Marinez remarks with a smile.
McGrady concludes by saying, “This has been such a special experience for me, one that I will cherish forever. Thank you so much for everything.”