From the Kitchen

From the Kitchen: The Headless Northern American Seafood

Hard to believe that for someone who loves to cook and eat, I’m posting about food just now. I didn’t plan on writing a foodie blog, foodie being a term that manages to be overused even if its definition is elusive. Is it someone with an adventurous palate, willing to try everything, or someone very particular, a connoisseur, self-styled or otherwise? Who knows? I eat for pleasure, health consideration sort of kicked in only in the last few years. Then there are people like my fiancé, who only see food as source of nourishment. Strange creatures.

Naturally, this makes for interesting mealtimes. Differences, isn’t that what makes relationships exciting, transformative even? What each one brings to the table? In this case, literally, I brought fish heads to our dining table. Halibut heads. I went over the budget for them at T&T. He gaped as I picked on flesh hidden in the cheeks, around the sockets, saving the eyes for last. Because love is love, I shared what I’d usually keep all to myself. And because love is love, he took a bite of something he never dreamt he would eat. Slimy, he found. He’s not a fan.

Good. More for me.

He told me I reminded him of a James Bond villain. He couldn’t remember which one exactly, but someone had served Agent 007 a fish head. When we watched Octopussy months later, it was revealed that he remembered the scene wrong. Roger Moore’s Bond was served a goat’s head on a plate. A goat’s head!

I can’t eat that, I said.

Fish head, goat’s head, he said. It’s all the same.

He understands that for my happiness, there’ll occasionally be a plated sea creature staring at him during our meals. He’s become familiar with my Headless-Northern-American-Seafood-rant. (He has his Leaves-and-Nothing-Else-Northern-American-Salad rant). Why do most supermarkets only sell pale, sad-looking fillets? Is it because no one wants to deal with heads and guts, where the flavours are? They resort to batter and sauces to make the fish palatable. Years ago, we were taught in school that you can tell the freshness of a fish by its eyes. Go for shiny and clear peepers, steer clear of dull and reddened ones. Not so useful if the catch of the day comes from a box in the frozen aisle. Same goes for prawns. In many restaurants, they’ll gouge you for an appetizer of rubbery crescents, blandness covered up by grease, batter, or marinara dip. So much work, for so little pleasure. So grateful Asian stores abound where I live.

He once overheard his friends who fish that they would bundle up their catch by running a hook through the eyes. “You’re losing the best part,” he told them and went on to talk about my taste for fish eyes. He probably got weirded-out looks, polite silence. So I go fishing (haha) for proof that I’m not such an oddity. This article talks about how widespread my beloved delicacy is. Taboo or tasty, this story asks of eyeballs. Both stories bring up other animals’ heads, far beyond my comfort level, but do make me feel a bit more normal.


6 thoughts on “From the Kitchen: The Headless Northern American Seafood

  1. A fellow fan of fishy eyes hahaha! You’d feel right at home here in Singapore. I remember my work colleagues and I went to a restaurant that served a mean fish head curry one time. I took the eyeballs since I figured no one wanted it — turns out a number of us did! We ended up splitting it 3-way 😄


  2. Many Americans (and other cultures) are spooked when fish is served on the table with its head included. And when we Filipinos (and most Asians) start sucking the eyes out of the head of the fish, that’s when they start leaving the dinner table.


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