Lake Como (Lario) is easily associated with many artistic and cultural treasures. The beauty of the landscape is certainly due to the enchanting villages along the banks, the beautiful historic villas that overlook it and the backdrop of snowy mountains. Less obvious, however, is the tradition of fishing and the consumption of fish products that, in the past, were an important economic resource and the basis of the local cuisine.
Fish has always been a staple food of human nutrition, especially in the Mediterranean basin, because it is easily available and consumed, as opposed to hunting game. There is no Mediterranean diet without fish. Several studies agree that fish is an elixir of long life, a real nutritional treasure because it is source of high biological value proteins, healthy fatty acids – the precious omega-3 -, minerals (especially iodine, selenium and magnesium), and vitamins.
Larian cuisine is based on various freshwater fish recipes. Lake fish is certainly not inferior to saltwater fish neither for its nutritional value nor the delicacy of its meat, which is actually more digestible.
Our beautiful lake offers an enormous variety of fish such as shad – the famous missultin, shad salted and then dried in the sun; delicious perch, whose fillet is served on risotto; lavaret, an icon of the lake, much appreciated for its delicate meat that is also suitable for preserving; and other like eel, chub and trout. While pike, which was once the food for princes, is now increasingly rare, so is bleak, a less valuable fish, but also difficult to find nowadays. A classic of our cuisine was fried bleak, still served in festivals but now imported.
When we go shopping at the supermarket, we are used to finding any species of fish we want. This happens because they are often imported products, but even fish, such as fruit and vegetables, has its own seasonality. When we talk about seasonal fish, we are referring to the availability of fish at that particular time of year. A seasonal fish, for example, will be a fish that is widely available and not in its reproductive phase: if the varieties in the reproductive phase is fished, there is the risk of interrupting the life cycle and the proliferation of that species, and consequently its availability will diminish in future seasons.
For example, the perch reproduction period is between March and May, while fishing is from June to October. For lavaret, reproduction is between November and December and fishing in spring and summer.
So, when Larian restaurants offer us dishes with this fish in months other than the fishing months, they are definitely imported.
Where should we buy fresh and seasonal fish? The best place to shop for fish and, in general for fresh produce, is the market. The city of Como offers a large indoor market on different days of the week where we can buy quality products, fresh, seasonal, local and, last but not least, with more flavor. It’s nice to talk to vendors, to ask where their products are from, to have a little taste, and why not, to learn how to store and cook what you buy. Shopping at the market is fun, sustainable, healthy and convenient as well. The same products are offered in different stands at different prices, it is up to us to choose those with the best quality/price ratio.
The magic of colors, scents and sounds of the market always attracts one’s attention, especially of foreign tourists, who consider a visit to the market a unique, pleasant and all-Italian experience.
There are, unfortunately, rumors in town that the city wants to replace our market with – yet another -supermarket. But the healthiest lifestyle choice is fresh and locally produced food. The Como market should be valued as a quality tourist attraction and a way to support the local economy and small business. I hope our local leaders will use some common sense and not destroy this important part of our cultural heritage.
This article was featured in Enjoy Como Magazine. See Press page. Ph. Andrea Butti. – Paola