"Everything in its time and mackerel in August." is a famous Greek proverb
According to Greek tradition, the “kolio,” a kind of small mackerel fish similar to the tuna, is a treat best savored in August. There is even an old folk saying that proclaims, "Everything in its time, but the mackerel in August."
But in reality, this beloved Mediterranean fish has a longer season than folk wisdom dictates: it flourishes in Greek waters from May through till at least September. In August, however, it tends to swim in more shallow waters, as the sun beats down on the sea, thus making it a lot easier to catch.
A Year in the Life…
Though the Ancients believed that the fish embarked upon a journey upward to the Black Sea at the onset of winter, the marine biologists of today’s day-and-age have shown that, come winter, the mackerel will actually migrate deep below the surface of the sea, thus beginning its period of hibernation. By December, it reaches obscure depths and survives meagerly on plankton for the next few months. As the winter progresses and spring nears, the fish eats everything in sight, in preparation for the spawning season. From May to September it travels in huge schools that attract the attention of hungry seagulls. By October, the fish begins its gradual descent back to the sea’s depths, thus ending its yearly cycle.
Humble, Healthful, and Historically Important
The kolio has always been a humble fish, disregarded and overlooked by connoisseurs. It is an oily, fatty fish, similar to sardines and anchovies, and redolent of omega 3 fatty acids, which are believed to counteract cancer. Understanding that the fish was extremely healthful, the ancient Greeks used it to make their “garos,” the pungent fish sauce that was a mainstay of ancient cuisine. The Greeks considered this sauce a delicacy, preparing it by leaving the fatty intestines of the fish to ferment in the sun and then collecting the juices.
Today, the fish is still prevalent in both Greek waters and Greek kitchens. Usually it is prepared in the oven with a simple recipe of herbs, onions, and tomatoes. Although it maintains the reputation of a humble species, Greeks savor it often.