Punched Fish

My father, God rest his soul, was a successful businessman who was used to the rough and tumble of competition.  He was no neophyte and was appropriately cynical about how the world really worked — with one exception.

Dad liked to eat out, but he was a bit naive about the truthfulness of the wait staff at restaurants.  At some point, he apparently had read an article disclosing that much of what was served as scallops in restaurants was not scallops at all, but rather fish that had been cut out into round pieces, seasoned and flavored like scallops, and served accordingly.  So, for years, if Dad saw scallops on the menu, he asked whether they were really scallops, or just “punched fish.”

I always liked that question, which conjured up images of pugilism under the sea, but I also wondered — did Dad really expect to get an honest answer?  If the menu listed it as scallops, what waiter would admit that it really wasn’t?  Dad’s question presupposed some very basic, and endearing, assumptions about human nature that you wouldn’t expect from someone in the business of selling cars.

I thought of Dad when I saw this article:  7 questions to ask before you eat that shrimp.  Questions about “punched fish” didn’t make the list.

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