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"I hate your damn stories"

Once, while having an argument over some triviality, a friend said, “And by the way, I hate your damn stories”.

At least I have some stories that don’t start with, “I went to this party and got so wasted….”. Which brings me to fish.

Recently someone offered me a salmon cake. Kind of like the famous Maryland crab cake or made with trout. I’m kidding. Made with salmon. I demurred on eating the thing. Now, I know it was “delicious”, “…to die for”, etc, but not for me.

You see, I have never eaten fish. A little lie. Growing up Swede and Catholic provided a yearly Christmas Eve dilemma. Observant Catholics didn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve and the Swedish holiday meal included the vaunted, yet dreaded, lutefisk. Lutefisk is a codfish that has been soaked in lye, salted and dried. Something like that. Isn’t lye used to unplug peckish sink drains? To cook it, you soak it and rinse it to remove the lye and salt and then boil the bejesus out of it till it returns to the consistency of oily slimy codfish. The Swedes eat it drenched in melted butter, covered with a white sauce, with boiled potatoes and various other delicacies. On Christmas to please my Swedish Grandmother, whom I loved very much, I would take a soupcon of lutefisk; cover it with butter and white gravy and eat it without any chewing. It is quite possible to shut off your taste buds for a second or three if you swallow quickly and follow with another food or drink. So, if gulping down a tablespoon of lutefisk like Shamu takes a herring from his trainer, I’m guilty of “eating” fish. One other time, I came close.

In the Twin Cities in the 60’s there was a sandwich chain (ala Subway ) called Clark’s. I wonder what happened to them. There must have been twenty or thirty of them around Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Anyway, on the menu were ham salad and tuna salad hoagie sandwiches. Because it was difficult to swallow a whole tuna salad hoagie without chewing or tasting, I didn’t even bother with it. I loved the ham salad, though. In 1964 or 65, I was driving from Austin, Minnesota to Duluth; a five hour drive in those days. I anticipated the trip through the Twin Cities because on highway 65 just north of Minneapolis there was a Clarks where I planned to get a ham salad hoagie to savor as I drove north. I stopped, bought it, and in the dark, lit only by the dashboard lights, I unwrapped the foot-long.

Horrors! A preliminary chew alerted me to a terrible miscarriage of “to-go” protocol. (Do they EVER get the orders correct?) It took just seconds for the synapses to do their job! TUNA! IT WAS TUNA! It was a frigging Tuna Salad sandwich. I spat the offending mouthful on the floor of my Pontiac Catalina, wiped my tongue with my fingers and quickly took a swallow of Coke. The remaining 99.5% of that sandwich flew out the window onto Highway 65. I really didn’t want to litter, but the offending piscine odor was permeating the car and at that moment, the prospect of a littering fine was of no moment. I had to be rid of that inedible concoction.

Fortunately, I also bought a regular lunchmeat hoagie, so I didn’t starve.

I know there is no rational explanation for my aversion to fish. I will eat a cocktail shrimp and enjoy the lobster that comes with the “surf and turf” at Black Angus. (Just as aside, in Modesto, the Black Angus sign broke and for a week they advertised the Black Anus Restaurant. Personally, I would have shut the sign off.)

Where was I? Shrimp and lobster are NOT fish. Yes, it is irrational. I also don’t eat pork. Except when in sausage, bacon, ham, and once in a while BBQ short ribs. I like my pork with nitrites. I have never eaten a pork chop and if I ever did eat one (or pork roast) it was parental abuse when I was too young to make my own decisions.

The point of this story? There really isn’t one. Sometimes, like Grandpa Simpson, it is just a story. A reason to talk. Something to say. An explanation of “me”.

So go ahead and eat your fish. That’s why you’re so damn smart!

October 2004.



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