Picture this. You’re seated at a rectangular table with your family, at a restaurant you’ve never been to before. A slight breeze from the swinging kitchen doors swirls around your legs as waiter after waiter brings out steaming trays of exotic-looking, colorful foods. You’re able to catch a quick glimpse of the chefs at the grill, turning over pink cuts of meat with sharp silver tongs. The stovetop sizzles as the cuts are laid to rest, with oil popping around them. Finally, a plate is placed before you. Fleshy white meat sits in neatly thinned slices, aside a vibrant lemon wedge. A citrusy armona dances in the air as you gently squeeze droplets of lemon onto the fish. After tearing off a small chunk of the juicy meat, you gingerly place it on your tongue, letting the flavor soak in. The zesty taste of the lemon blends perfectly with the peppered breading that coats the fish. This is your first time trying seafood, and you are beyond satisfied.
If only my experiences trying seafood went exactly like that. On the contrary, I cannot name a single time where I have found any sliver of happiness while eating fish.
One particular encounter with seafood that still haunts me to this day is when my parents and I went down to the Connecticut shoreline to try out a seafood place for dinner. I will never forget the putridly strong stench of fish that exploded in my nostrils the minute we stepped through the door. My stomach instantly began to churn, sending bubbles up my esophagus that I couldn’t seem to swallow down. I quickly became so nauseated by the reek of seafood that I had to go sit in the car until our food had arrived. My father, being the stubborn man that he is, practically forced me to order a cut of fish, even with my stomach in its angered state. Inevitably, I had the urge to purge all of my insides the minute that first, decently small, chunk of white fish was being ground between my teeth. To no surprise, I did not join the “clean plate club” that day, but instead, ended up boxing my entire meal to go.
Despite this experience, as well as all of the similar nauseating encounters following it, I am still determined to like fish. As a vegetarian with a meat-loving dad, I am always getting flack from him for “depriving myself of protein.” (This, by the way, is not the case at all, but I let it slide.) Thus, to give my father some peace of mind, I’ve been trying fish again and again every time I’m handed the opportunity. Seafood has incredible health benefits, so ideally, I would love to love fish.
According to the Heathline article, “11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Eating Fish” by Joe Leech, almost all fish are absolutely loaded with important nutrients such as protein, iodine, and even omega-3 fatty acids. Essentially, all of these components really add up to give your heart an immunity boost, in order to prevent things like heart disease. Even the Harvard School of Public Health wrote an article stating “Eating fish once or twice a week may also reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions” (Fish: Friend of Foe?). So, as someone who loves doing good for her body, I definitely wanted to hop on this seafood bandwagon.
Because of this desire, I decided to give seafood yet another try a few weeks ago.
I was coming home from school for the weekend and asked my dad if he could cook us up some fish. To no surprise, he was ecstatic that I was the one suggesting it for once.
He bought two cuts of swordfish and cod from Big Y’s seafood market, and coated them with a homemade breading made from mayonnaise, paprika, the juice of half a lemon, parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper.
When I asked him why he chose those seemingly-sporadic ingredients for the breading, he responded with a witty remark asking if I was the one doing the cooking.
And, well, since I was not, I was apparently not supposed to “question the chef.” Though, I honestly think he didn’t give me a straight answer simply because he didn’t really know what he was doing.
Of course, however, no cooking in my household ever goes smoothly. This time, my dad accidentally heated up the wrong oven– one that we store other pans and cooling racks in– which resulted in us having to bust open all of our windows and frantically flap magazines at the smoke detectors in hopes of shutting off their annoying screeches.
After fifteen minutes of that utter chaos, he was finally able to put the fish in the correct oven to broil. The cuts came out looking quite similar to chicken, with a crispy brown coating and fleshy white insides.
Once we were finally seated and eating, I decided to have some fun with my meal (or mask the taste– you choose). I sifted through our fridge and pulled out three different condiments to dip the fish in.
The taste test verdicts were as follows: the spicy brown mustard was a good blend of spice for the subtle taste of the cod; the tartar sauce added a creamy, relish-y taste; and the horseradish had a slight kick, almost tasting like sweet, yet spicy, ketchup. In all honesty, I felt like the meal would not have been complete without these dressings. The fish was chewy and slimy, and the bread coating made for a grainy texture on my tongue, but it did not have any true flavor to it when eaten alone.
Even so, overall, this was probably the most pleasant experience I have had with fish in a long time. The fish itself may not have been extremely flavorful, but I did thoroughly enjoy the buttery texture mixed with the creamy condiments and my dad’s surprisingly pleasant made-up breading.
Plus, I’m just proud of myself simply for giving it yet another try! I am by no means a picky eater, so to actually start liking something that I’ve hated for years makes me extremely excited for more food tasting opportunities. Most importantly, though, the experience in itself is one I will giggle at for years to come. Afterall, it’s not every day that you get to see your parent mess up in the kitchen.
Although I still have yet to find that commonly shared love for fish, I will not give up my search; there is no doubt in my mind that it is something I can achieve. Being from New England, there’s a plethora of seafood restaurants around me that I have yet to explore, as well as an entire ocean of fish for me to try. I am, without a doubt, a pescatarian-wannabe, and I am determined to stumble across my true liking for it one of these days.