Sunday, January 17, 2010

To Fillet a Fish

I am in a family of fishermen. My grandpa had half a basement full of ties, reels, ice augers, and magazines devoted to the sport. My dad, no different. I, on the other hand, have always been a little phobic of fishing. I remember my mom and step-dad forcing me to accompany them on their many fishing excursions. This involved a little boat on a small lake somewhere in rural Wisconsin; I was seven or eight at the time, deemed too young to stay home alone. At first I found it all a bit boring, but then I was told a tale that horrified me to the core. My step-dad related to me a tale about his days as a young fisherman. He had had some trouble taking his catch off the hook and some of the scales lodged into his skin--a nasty fish scale sliver resulted. My adult self has some doubts both about the story and my ability to recall it accurately; nevertheless, I've been afraid to touch a fish ever since.

What better way to start off my Month of New Things than by filleting a fish and thus conquering this long held irrational fear?

My step-brother, Dan, and my Dad spent all day Friday ice fishing. They brought home over a dozen small fish, mostly walleyes and perch. I looked at their little frozen bodies; nothing to be afraid of, I realized. Then my Dad cut into one and my squimishness took over. Not only am I phobic of fish, I also have issues with blood.

I once accompanied my father to the hospital and watched him get stitches, in hopes of overcoming my fear, but ended up fainting--falling with a thud onto the cold hospital floor. I have to turn away during the operating scenes of Grey's Anatomy. Being a doctor or nurse has never been in the cards for me, but maybe gutting a fish I could do.

I tried paying attention to Eddie Davis, master fish filleter's, technique. I won't go into details here for I'm sure most of you aren't interested into a play-by-play of killing Nemo. I will tell you that in the end simply listening and focusing on the task allowed me to forget about the blood and guts. After several attempts I was able to fillet a small perch, leaving two beautiful pieces of boneless, skinless meat. This is something I can truly appreciate after five years in China where the fish is served to you whole. I don't like anything I'm about to eat to be looking at me, nor do I enjoy tiny bones getting stuck in my throat. So with my first New Thing I have learned a new skill and conquered my fish phobia. . . not a bad start.

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