I recently wrote about how I became a pescetarian. After reading my post, a friend of a friend wrote me, wondering what happened next.
I admit, going “pescetarian” has been quite an adventure, from buying fish and learning new vocabulary (in both French and English!), to properly cutting it in a restaurant and, of course, learning to cook fish myself.
The first time I cooked salmon it reminded me of what one might end up with if they were stranded on a desert island. It was fresh, yet blackened and tough, as though I had prepared it over an open spit, after having rubbed two sticks together to get fire. Worse, trying to make sure it was cooked enough, I had inadvertently broken my pavé into small (near bite-size) pieces while it was in the frying pan. The skillet was hot, too hot, and the edges of my salmon were getting pretty crispy, while the inside was staying bright pink. Instead of turning down the heat, my solution was to slaughter it.
I kind of enjoyed my fish that evening. It, however, wasn’t so much my sorry attempt at cooking that got me. It was realizing, just before taking my first bite, that I was about to eat fish, something I had consciously stayed away from for many years. There I was, sitting alone at the table, in front of my “meal,” wondering if I should actually eat it. On one hand, I was anxious to try the much-awaited, much-debated fish. On the other, I couldn’t help thinking about how it had once been alive, with eyes and internal organs. I suddenly felt guilty, a wave of ethics and morals crashing over me. What was I doing? I wasn’t really stranded on an island. I didn’t need to eat this being, lying dead (and brutally butchered) on my plate. I sat for a minute, thinking about where this fish might have come from, imagining it swimming blissfully in the sea. I hadn’t been prepared for this feeling of culpability. I forced myself to bitterly swallow these feelings and lifted a forkful to my mouth. It would have been even worse to not eat the fish now that I had brought it to its current state. And, if I didn’t like it, I’d never have to do it again.
The next time I had fish, I ordered it in a restaurant and what a difference that made. Then, a few months later, Sébastien and I moved in together and he took over the fish cooking. I did notice that eating fish made my energy level go up and I quickly started enjoying it- we’re a little spoiled here in France, especially along the coasts.
About a year ago, I decided I’d give cooking fish another try. The advantages of not knowing too much about fish are: 1. I learn something new every time I step into the kitchen and… 2. There’s lots of room for creativity.
Because I was a strict vegetarian for so many years, I can’t bring myself to ignorantly buy, cook and eat fish. I’m constantly reminding myself why and how I’m doing it. I’m curious, for example, about which fish are in season, which are good choices health-wise and whether “organic” or “non-organic” is better… Before lifting my fork, I also like to say, “Thanks, Fish.”
I’ll definitely be sharing more fish stories, as well as some of my favorite new recipes- now that I’m improving!