Fishy Art

The artwork at the Miami airport has a distinctly fishy feel. Every piece is created using local fish as the medium. It’s different, and in my view, vastly superior to your average generic airport art.

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Putting Our Destructive Appetites To Productive Use

The State of Maryland really doesn’t like the frightful northern snakehead.  Its name, while grimly evocative, doesn’t quite do the creature justice.  It’s an ugly, slimy fish that can reach weights of 15 pounds or more, it looks like a torpedo with a mouthful of sharp, needle-like teeth, and it can even survive out of water for several days and wriggle along on land.  And, it’s an invasive species to boot.

snakehead-fishThe northern snakehead is native to Asia and simply doesn’t belong in Maryland, but when one thoughtless pet owner dumped some of the fish into Maryland waters, the state took action.  (Anybody who would want these horrors for pets probably shouldn’t be permitted to own them, when you think about it.)  When the state found the fish in a pond, it poisoned the pond, and when it found the fish in a lake, it drained the lake.  But the northern snakehead apparently is as wily and hardy as it is repulsive, because the fish kept turning up — and then it was finally found in the Potomac River, where the poisoning and draining approaches obviously wouldn’t work.  In the meantime, people started catching the northern snakehead, or seeing it in the river, and were close to freaking out for fear that it might eat their pets or be some kind of poisonous mutant.

So Maryland decided to take another tack — now, it is encouraging people to hunt for the northern snakehead and eat it.  Maryland sponsors snakehead fishing tournaments and offers licenses to hunt the fish with bow and arrow, and Maryland restaurants have started serving the fish to customers, too.  The fish apparently has a firm, white, mild flesh, but to get to it you have to first scrape off a thick layer of slime — which doesn’t exactly make the fish seem appetizing, does it?  Still, its meat apparently stands up well to seasoning, and it is perfectly edible for most people . . . if they don’t know about the monstrosity from which the meat came.  Some people, on the other hand, actually like the idea of striking back and eating the flesh of the scary invasive species that shouldn’t be in the Potomac River in the first place.

Maryland has gone from no commercial fishing of the northern snakehead to harvesting thousands of the pounds of the fish for restaurants.  It’s still got a long way to go before it can eat its way out of the northern snakehead infestation, but it’s made a good start.  We all know about how the destructive activities and appetites of human beings have put some creatures onto the endangered species list, and worse.  Maybe this time we can finally put those destructive tendencies to good use.  Who knows:  if we can eat our way to the demise of the northern snakehead, perhaps we can take the same creative and filling approach to the dreaded Asian carp, zebra mussels, and sea lampreys that are invasive species in the Great Lakes?

Not An Afishionado

My doctor has long been after me to eat less meat and more fish.  It’s easy to rationalize ignoring his heartfelt advice — which is what most of us do with doctorly advice, when you think about it — in Columbus, Ohio, which is more than 100 miles from any substantial body of water.  It’s not exactly the fish capital of the world.

In Belize, though, there is no viable excuse or rationalization.  So, I’ve been eating seafood until it’s coming out of my ears.  Ceviche.  Grouper.  The whole red snapper shown above, complete with head, eyes, and little bones that you pick out of your mouth.  And lots of shrimp.

It’s all fine, I guess, and I suppose I’ve added a few minutes to my lifespan by adhering to doctor’s orders.  But to my mind the highlights of my Belizean culinary experience so far were the stewed chicken I attacked on Tuesday and a flavorful jerk chicken sandwich yesterday.  

Nothing satisfies like meat.

Fresh Fish

  
Hey, Dr. Z!  Look, I took your instruction that I need to eat more fish, and had some absolutely fresh off the boat grouper for lunch.  It made me realize, once again, what a difference freshness makes.

I feel so much healthier now!  Of course, I had French fries and a few beers with the fish, and the fish was fried . . . but hey, it’s a start!

Frank’s Fish

IMG_5293It’s always an educational adventure when you go to lunch with Dr. Science.  When it comes to Columbus food options, he knows the good places, the new places, and the remote places tucked away far from the downtown core of which only foodies are aware.

So it was yesterday, when we drove west, out beyond the I-270 outerbelt, to Frank’s Fish and Seafood Market.  Our drive was a voyage of discovery of sorts for any seafood lover, because Frank’s turns out to be the primary fish supplier to many Columbus restaurants.  Fortunately, it also offers its fresh fish options to the general public, and it has a nice little restaurant and carry-out menu, too.

IMG_5290The fish market part of the operation, with its tubs of fresh fish laid carefully on beds of shaved ice, will remind seafood afficionados of the fishmongers on the east coast.  And that, in a nutshell, is the problem in Columbus.  Fresh fish is great, but fish doesn’t stay fresh for long — which poses a problem in land-locked Midwestern towns like Columbus.  That’s why eating fish at restaurants along the American coastline seems like a revelation in comparison to the pale piscine offerings found here in the heartland.

I didn’t grab one of the iced-down mullets (the fish, not the appalling hairstyle) on display yesterday to conduct a closer examination, but Frank’s offerings looked pretty good to this untrained eye from a freshness standpoint.  For one thing, the fish options are limited — which suggests that someone knowledgeable is making good judgments about what is reasonably available — and regional options like walleye are included.  Frank’s also has lots of frozen and smoked fish, shellfish, and chowders, as well as a handy wine area.

The restaurant section of Frank’s offers a number of sandwiches, shrimp, oysters, fish and chips, and seafood entrees, as well as what Dr. Science swears is the best gumbo in the Columbus area — and he backed up his words by getting a quart to take home.  I got the fried perch, and it was terrific — hot, fresh, and with the flaky mildness that makes perch one of the best eating fishes available.  We sat out on the patio on a fine spring day, feeling the sun’s warmth and enjoying the gifts of the sea.  I’d go back to Frank’s again.

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Your Mom and Grandmother Were Right About There Being More Fish In The Sea

When you first had your heart broken, chances are your mother and your grandmother told you to forget about the person who jilted you and added: “There are many fish in the sea.” It turns out that they were more right than they knew — about fish, at least.

A recent Australian study determined that the oceans are filled with many more fish than scientists suspected. In fact, the study concludes that the global biomass of fish is 30 times higher than was previously thought.

Why the incredible undercount of fish? Because most of the world’s biomass of fish falls in the category of mesopelagic fish, which live in the dark depths of the ocean at levels 200 to 1000 meters below the surface. The populations of those fish have been underestimated because the fish have remarkable sensorial capabilities and are incredibly adept at avoiding detection and capture by fishing nets. Their true number was revealed only when acoustic detection devices were used.

Mesopelagic fish are otherworldly looking, with their jutting jaws and special sensory devices, but they play an important role in the oceanic ecosystems. They rise at night to feed, then sink back to the depths to take their craps — a process which transfers carbon from the ocean’s surface to its deepest depths. The decarbonization of the surface helps to keep the oceans healthy.

Curious, isn’t it — after millennia of fishing and sailing the oceans, and hundreds of years of careful scientific study, humans still know so little about the oceans and their inhabitants that we underestimated the fish population by a factor of 30. What else don’t we know about the waters that cover most of the Earth’s surface?

Fish-Eyed

IMG_4563Seriously, can’t you just smell this place from this photo of goggle-eyed fish, ready to be consumed by happy fish lovers?  Water on the floor, people walking around with heavy aprons and boots that come up to the knee, and the sharp, clean scent of fish — ridiculously fresh fish — everywhere you care to take a sniff.

And this is just the retail side of the Portland fish market.  Imagine what the wholesale side looks and smells like!