39. Fresh fish supper
There is a lot to be said for fresh fish, if you like it. I do.
One of the reasons I picked PEI was because it’s an island with lots of fishing communities. So much water in rivers, lakes, ponds and creeks all over the island. No wonder a favorite pastime of many people is fishing. During the fishing season, that is, when it opens in mid-April until when it ends after summer. I figures it would be a great way to get healthy eating.
You would think that in four years of living here, I would have found some time to get me a decent fishing pole or net and go fishing. Or, considering I have never really done that in my life, I might be buying fresh fish from the grocery all the time. Apparently, that was never a habit ingrained in me, so I bought frozen fish instead.
Then, after four years of meeting the same people day in and day out and getting to know some of them well enough to crack an occasional joke or greet them with a personal remark, some of them actually asked, in the course of talking about fishing, if I liked fish and promised to bring me some in the next time they went fishing. True to their word, one of them brought me a pack of four fish, all cleaned and filleted and ready to cook. Not completely fresh, though, because he had to put them in the freezer until he could get them to me. Still, pretty fresh.
Then, wonder of wonders, another one actually brought a whole pailful of fresh fish, still slippery and shiny and bright eyed, to share with my friend who also worked at the store. (He had already brought her some before, but because I wasn’t working that day, she wasn’t able to get any to me.) So there I was, with a bucket of fresh fish. I shared some with her, dropping them off at her place after work, just before I headed home to confront the fish.
I was all ready and charged to clean them up so I could freeze what I wasn’t going to cook right away…but it’s really nice to have a friend who’ll do it for you, because he didn’t want me to hurt my hands on the really sharp fins. To make the work easier, I chopped of the heads and he cleaned them out. Unlike in the Philippines, people just chop of fish heads here. They do not eat the heads! Of course, my friend couldn’t understand that, as most fish in the grocery stores, fresh or frozen, come without heads, tails or fins, and they are all filleted and clean.
More surprising was, the only way he knew to cook fresh fish was salted and rolled in flour then fried. I, of course, humored him, and did just that, but fried it the way we do in the Philippines, so that the tail and fins and skin are all crunchy and delicious to eat. He watched me in horror, warning me over and over again to watch out, that I might choke on the spines, that the spines would stay inside me and puncture my insides. I totally enjoyed seeing the look on his face as I crunched away at the tails and the fins and the crunchy skin.
The worst part was, he just took away the whole belly of the fish and discarded on the side of his plate, along with all the spines and tail. That is the best part of the fish! Even while cleaning out the fish, he would have scraped the belly away if I hadn’t made him stop and told him the belly was the best part of the fish. He left some of it. Sigh.
Anyway, I made some Filipino-style dipping sauce to go with the fish. I had some fresh tomatoes and onions that I chopped up and soaked in vinegar and soy sauce, mixing in a generous sprinkling of dried chili flakes, which is only next best to fresh tiny red chili peppers. It was a wonderfully delicious supper, the fish slightly flaky on the inside, without a hint of fishiness.
I will cook the rest in different dishes. Maybe for supper tonight!