I learned a lot about these fishermen, and developed lasting friendships with them. Lucien Vitiello, the weathered leader of the group, spent the most time with me, and taught me about the passion that drives these men to devotedly pursue such a harsh existence. On many occasions, I would join him on the Irene, his loud, slow boat, and listen as he spun tales of the Mediterranean and its fish, and little by little revealed the unwritten rules by which he and his fellow fishermen live. We passed some unsuccessful days together on the boat, and some good days, and even a few great days—days when we'd pull into port, our spirits high, with copious hauls of grondin, congre, baudroie, loup, chapon, saint-pierre, and the esteemed dorade. Fruitful times such as these inspired stories about bouillabaisse, the local fisherman's dish that's best when made with as wide a variety of fish as possible. I'd heard the fishermen boast about their "bouilla" and argue about what should go into the dish—and what never should. I'd heard about the world's largest version, "La Geante", prepared in Sanary under Vitiello's guidance every June—and about how the tradition had grown out of a dinner conversation that Vitiello had eight years ago with the town's mayor. Over time, I came to understand that Vitiello was a master of bouillabaisse.