My wife and I decided to have lunch out at a favorite little restaurant the other day. At one point I asked her how she liked the tuna fish sandwich she was eating. "Well, she hesitated. "The tuna tastes kind of fishy, actually" she said. "Oh, that's too bad," I replied. The tuna was too fishy. That got me to thinking. How come no one complains that beef tastes like beef or chicken tastes like chicken, or an apple tastes like an apple, but nobody wants their fish to taste like fish?
I'm no fish lover, I must tell you. As much as I've tried at different times throughout my life, I just can't embrace the slimly little things. Oh sure I grew up eating fish sticks and tuna fish sandwiches and I still do. But that's like saying that you eat beans but only jelly beans. Or that you eat corn but only popcorn with lots of butter. Crispy fish sticks dunked in ketchup I can stomach, especially with French fries or Tatter Tots, and a tuna sandwich (if it isn't fishy and doesn't have too much mayo in it) on rye with chips on the side is a good lunch. But that's where my seafood adventures stop.
As I said, from time to time I've been encouraged to "just try it. It's good and it's good for you." So from time to time I do just that, and guess what? I'm always sorry I didn't order the chops. When I do acquiesce to a fish dinner I always try to get a fish that doesn't look, taste, or smell like a fish.
Once I ordered a fish (not sure which one it was) in a restaurant known for their fish and the thing had about three hundred and forty-nine thousand tiny soft white bones in it. And I didn't know they were there until I put a forkful into my mouth. That was a real surprise! Here's the deal, when I get a bone in a rib eye steak, I KNOW I've got a bone in it. No surprises. I can see it right away.
Yes, I've had real Dover sole for big bucks at the best places and I must admit it was quite good. But I've also ordered it when it wasn't worth the price. And if I'm going to spend anywhere from $75 to $100 for a serving of Dover sole it better be terrific EVERY TIME.
As much as a don't like fish, I don't like shellfish even more. Let's start with what these things look like. Big, ugly insects. That's right. If you turned back the covers on your bed one night and saw a two-inch long insect that resembled a lobster, would you think, "Oh, yummy! That looks like a tasty meal?" Or would you think, "YEEOWW, I'm sleeping in a motel tonight!"
How does one go to the beach and see a big creepy crawly insect on the sand with antennae eyes and pincher claws and want to sit down at a table and eat it? I want to find a shovel and smash the ugly bugger to smithereens.
Some shellfish don't look like insects. Mussels, clams, and oysters just look like hard-shelled rocks with slimy silly putty goo in them that you're supposed to slide right down your throat. Sounds good? If G od wanted us to eat these things he wouldn't have made them so hard to force open. And so repulsive once you got them open.
And once you get passed what these things look like, then you have to come to terms with the texture. If chewing rubber bands and slurping glutinous globules of slime is your idea of a fabulous dining experience, then knock yourself out. I may not be the most observant Jew in the world, but when it comes to eating shellfish, I'm right up there with my orthodox brothers. Go right ahead and slurp your slime, I'll take a salami sandwich.
This brings us back to the idea that fish shouldn't be too "fishy." They say if you walk into a fish restaurant and it smells "fishy," that isn't a good thing. But on the other hand, if you walk into a steak restaurant and you smell steak, that is a good thing.
My philosophy is similar to the political corruption axiom, "follow the money." When it comes to food, just follow your nose.
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