respecting the fish

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When I was a kid my parents would occasionally buy fish from a co-op shop down by the wharf. The fishing trawlers would bring in their catches and deposit their sea life goodies onto the shop counters. While I wasn’t so fussed on eating the fish I did enjoy playing with the fishy carcass out in the backyard.

Scales would be scraped off, hitting the old newspaper underneath. The dinner parts carefully taken inside to the kitchen and the rest of the fish bits would be all for my sister and and I to inspect.

We would squish its eye a little, have a look in the stomach seeing what it what it might have eaten just before being caught, and generally just dissect the remains to see what there was to see.

While the odd fishy innard silently being flung off onto the grass under foot, and half an hour of playing with fish guts probably made us smell like, well fish guts. I do really value those experiences.

These days our little family doesn’t eat a lot of seafood. Like any meat, I would like to know where and how it arrived on my dinner plate. In an ideal world I would catch any fish that I was to eat myself, or at least meet the person that did. Neither of those options seem particular practical for us at the moment so seafood intake is about once a year.

That once a year time had arrived and there was to be fish on the table. I couldn’t give my kids the same childhood experiences that I had, with cool green grass underfoot, and fish guts to step through… but I could do something similar.

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With a sharp knife and eager fingers to prod. Anatomy was scrutinised, fins were stretched out, eyeballs were poked and a satisfying amount of respect was given to the small fish lying on the plate. This was once a life lying before us, respect I think was well deserved.

What was the fish thinking before it got caught mama?

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We talked about the fish and what it meant to catch something and then eat it. Monkey Boy said he thought the fish looked sad and wondered whether it was sad because it had been caught.ย Little Monkey thought the fish looked like it was crying. As he had a fascination with poking the eyeball, it really looked like it was.

While I’m not a fan of attaching human emotions to animals, I won’t shy my kids away from the realities of eating meat. It doesn’t come naturally filleted and free from eyes and tails. If they choose to eat meat than I have every intention of them knowing where it really comes from.

For me this starts with respecting the fish.

21 thoughts on “respecting the fish

  1. Yes! Love this post. So important for kids to experience the whole beast, guts and all. Just as crucial as being able to rip a vegetable out of the ground, or tear off a lettuce leaf! My dad was a weekend fisherman, and like you, I remember being fascinated by the fresh wriggling fish, and watching intently while dad scaled and filleted. I’m wondering how you cooked this fish! Hope there is a recipe to come…


    • Thank you Saskia, glad you like the post. Fish really are quite fascinating aren’t they. Maybe one day I’ll be a weekend fisherwoman too…
      As for the recipe, alas nothing forth coming. Cooked on a super hot pan, a little salt and salad on the side. Nothing fancy.


  2. I grew up on a farm so cleaning of any animal was norm. My parents and other family members always answered any questions we had about the process. I have been buying fish once a month or every few months from Whole Foods and ask about where the fish came from, how the store processes it, I can tell them what part or piece I want, and ask questions on how to best prepare. Been a good experience so far – otherwise I would probably eat fish once a year too. Great Post – thanks for sharing! Happy Tuesday


  3. My sister forged a career that started with her being inordinately interested in fish intestines…she works in a hospital laboratory, a job that I was offered first but that I passed up because of my complete LACK of desire to play with fish eyes ;). She is a lab tech…I am vegan…what happens in your childhood tends to form your adulthood ๐Ÿ˜‰


  4. think you are such a good mother, Brydie!
    We used to go to the farms and the butcher and see the red meat being cut- but I don’t remember ever dissecting a fish with my boys.
    And I, too , am wondering how you cooked it! LOL!


  5. A really great post. I think it’s important that everyone know where their food comes from. So many adults think that “meat” comes glad wrapped in a supermarket without thinking about the fact that the steak was once a living, breathing cow. The reality is too uncomfortable for most people – but when you are aware of the reality I think you become a better, kinder consumer.


  6. Great idea Brydie! Kids need to know that meat (or fish) doesn’t come in sanitised little packets from the fridge, but from paddocks, or oceans etc. and that they once lived and breathed as we do. You’re right, it’s all about respect.
    ps. love the photo of the fish tail ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. What a lovely stance to take Brydie. I really admire your approach – as an occasional fish eater myself (although less and less it seems) this is something that I ponder about too. Fish is the only place where my desire to eat animal free and my beliefs about what is healthy clash (I think there is enough research on fish benefits to convince me it’s healthy, just not sustainable), and I haven’t figured out a good way to bring the two together yet. This is a nice way to do it in your family.


  8. When I grew up half a calf or lamb would be delivered to our door on a Saturday morning delivered by the man who reared it. Saturday morning was spent watching Dad butcher the meat for the freezer and answer all of our endless questions about its anatomy. There was no wastage. We would get our fruit from trees in the backyard what trees grew was what fruit we ate. Apart from bananas which were a treat and apples which we got from a local grower in a crate. We collected rain from our roof in a tank. The baker would deliver our bread freshly baked in a van or my Mum would bake it if she had time. We didnt live on a farm we lived a suburban life. ITs a great loss and a shame that children today live a prepackaged life. Everything is wrapped up and made easy. This ease of life I attribute to the problems young adults seem to have today their lack of autonomy and impatience for instant gratification. Its fantastic that you provide your children with these sorts of opportunities it will shape the way they see the world and where they fit into it.


  9. I adore this!! Most kids are simply taught that fish is food and have no idea where it comes from… but this helps them put it into perspective, learn about anatomy AND allows them to make their own decisions. Genius, absolutely genius.


  10. My hubby is a big hunter/fisherman. We aren’t close to the ocean, but the fish are abundant in our local rivers and lakes. And most of the meat we eat (about 3 days/wk) is something he caught himself. Normally he gets the larger animals butchered by a professional, but for want of becoming more self-sufficient he butchered his deer on our kitchen table last fall – it was quite the experience. I helped to wrap and label all the meat. This year we are hoping to do more. And once our little man is a little bigger we are hoping to introduce to the whole process, hunting, cleaning, skinning, butchering, storing and cooking ๐Ÿ˜€

    So good to hear that others are sharing similar views with their littles ๐Ÿ™‚


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