|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
It is my experience that many people will eat the most thoroughly disgusting things and happily claim that they are absolutely delicious. Working in the food and beverage department of a hotel, I see a lot of this and it usually horrifies me. I am a bit fussy about what I am willing to consume. I'm a vegetarian now, but back when I ate meat I made it my policy to avoid eating certain kinds of creatures for a variety of reasons, and plenty of people considered some of my reasons pretty odd.
I would never eat any fish that spent its life consuming the waste products of other fish. Although a lot of people found this reasoning absurd, it made perfect sense to me. As a consequence, I never ate shellfish, even (gasp!) lobster. I wouldn't touch catfish either. Not that these creatures don't serve a very useful and important purpose in the ecosystem; I just don't feel compelled to dine on the garbage men of the deep.
I don't know how many of you have had an occasion to eat Grouper, which is a tropical and sub-tropical fish of considerable size and extraordinary ugliness. People down here love it and will eat Grouper for breakfast with their eggs if you offer it to them. The hotel recently hosted an annual policy meeting for a large and obscenely wealthy corporate group who spent one day fishing in the Gulf. They caught a boat load of Grouper, (who are evidently as stupid as they are ugly), and requested that the Chef cook their catch of the day for dinner that night. The Chef agreed, for a fee, and the proud anglers brought their ugly fish to the hotel kitchen packed in ice in styrofoam coolers.
Of course, none of these corporate executives felt it incumbent upon them to clean the fish, catching it while simultaneously consuming large quantities of beer was as far as they were willing to go with it. When I walked into the kitchen that afternoon the place smelled like something had died, which half a dozen coolers full of things had, and several of the victims were stretched out on the stainless steel tables awaiting their turn at being autopsied.
Just as I walked in the Chef was making the incision from gill to tail in the first Grouper, and to my utter disgust and nightmarish horror, out spilled hundreds of pale, gelatinous, wriggling worms. Needless to say, my first response was to locate the nearest 50 gallon trash can since I felt that the loss of my lunch was likely imminent.
"That," I gagged, "is the most nauseating thing I have witnessed since my neighbor's daughter forced me to watch a Spice Girls video."
The Chef just laughed. "What's the matter, Adele," he asked, "never gutted a Grouper before?"
What a stupid question. Did I look like the kind of woman who would be likely to spend my time eviscerating ugly, wormy fish?
"Never caught one, never cleaned one, never eaten one." I assured him. "And never will unless someone is holding a gun to my head or the only other option is a slow, painful death from starvation."
"Grouper always have lots of worms." He said with a shrug. "You just have to clean them out with all the guts and internal organs." He proceeded to do just that with the nonchalance of long practice.
"What if you miss some?" I asked.
"Then you just cook them along with the Grouper," he said cheerfully. "Grouper is excellent eating."
Not on my planet, I thought.
"It's a shame you're a tree-hugging vegetarian; you'll never know what you are missing," he mourned.
"I can clearly see what I'm missing," I told him, "and I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be missing it. I wouldn't eat that hideous, disgusting, parasite-ridden nightmare fish if you paid me. It looks like something out of a Stephen King story, inside and out."
The Chef shook his head sadly. "That's your problem," he said forlornly, "you're just too picky about a lot of things. That's why you don't eat good fish and don't have a boyfriend."
I wasn't sure what grotesque fish and my love life, (or lack thereof), had to do with each other, but I had to admit that while I am pretty indifferent to all sorts of things, there are some things about which I am pretty picky. But all things considered, being romantically unencumbered and a tree-hugging vegetarian isn't so bad. Beats being an ugly, worm-ridden, dead fish being dismembered on a stainless steel table. If that Grouper had been a little pickier about what he was willing to put in his mouth and consume, he might have avoided being a hotel for parasites and somebody's wormy dinner.