The Whole Fish In My Hands
Head on, bones intact is how I fondly remember eating fish as a child and it's still how I prefer it. However, I never cook whole fish at home.
With events and flights delayed indefinitely, I have a lot of extra time on my hands. After spending the first quarantine week obsessing over the news and worrying about the future of my industry, I started week two determined to get centered (meditating, journaling, etc) and pursue things that would bring me joy and comfort even in these uncertain times. I didn't expect to find exactly what I needed wrangling with a fish in my kitchen.
To be clear, the whole fish adventure wasn't my idea. My quarantine partner decided that's what he wanted for dinner one night and I decided why not. (I know you guys have a lot of questions, I touch on it here). I had no question that I'd be able to do this. I enjoy cooking and while you won't see me posting any photos of my home-cooked meals, it's something that I do pretty well.
The farmers market tackled the hardest parts of gutting, cleaning and scaling the fish. All that was left for me to do was steam it. Simple enough...until it wasn't. There were so many things that I didn't consider, like the size of the pan versus the size of the fish. About five more things went wrong (which is a lot when this should really be a three-step process). I'm not admitting to them because you'll immediately realize that what I was doing didn't make sense in the first place.
In the end, the fish was edible and flavorful (even if all of Asia would classify me as a bad cook for failing this benchmark test). Once my initial feelings of turmoil were washed away (with lots of wine), I realized that I was actually filled with the peace that I was looking for. I felt...whole. Those bulging eyes staring at me transported me to the streets and restaurants of Kingston and Bangkok and many places in between simultaneously. I felt connected to the world while remembering that I could take on challenges.
I'm going to spend the next few weeks mastering this (I'm not entirely certain this is by choice. We have enough red snapper to outlast this quarantine.) and studying for my Level II sommelier test. I hope you are all safe, healthy and pursuing the things that make you smile, laugh and maybe even feel a little silly.
I know that this time will shape our lives in many different ways and many people are concerned about many different things. The thought that is unshakeable for me is how this will affect restaurants. Here's a list from Bon Appétit of ways you can help restaurants now.