“Fresh Fish!”

Janet and I went to dinner tonight at a local seafood restaurant. This is not unusual in the Northwest, where seafood is king but it was sort of a last minute decision and it went like all restaurant decisions between us.

Me: Why don’t we go out to dinner? Where should we go?

Janet: Wherever the husband wants to go.

Me: (made a couple suggestions – got a couple crinkled noses). We ended up going where the wife wanted to go.

Who said Filipina wives are different from American wives 🙂

We’re talking at the table waiting for our order to arrive. Janet remarked for the hundredth time in our marriage that she misses fresh fish. It took me at least a year of marriage to release that her notion of fresh fish is slightly different from my American notion, which usually includes the image of the Gortens Fisherman. OK, I’ll admit the image above is David Letterman, pretending to be the Gortens Fisherman, but that’s just as accurate.

Janet’s notion of fresh fish is pretty odd; you meet the fisherman at the boat and buy fish that are still flopping around. Or you meet the fisherman on the beach where he has just docked his boat. Or, better yet, your dad catches the fish in the ocean and brings it home. Or best still, you catch the fish and keep the best parts for yourself. As I say, Filipino notions of fresh are pretty odd.

In America our notion of fresh fish is that I see fish in the supermarket lying on ice and it looks yummy. I believe it’s fresh because, like Mulder in the X-Files, “I want to believe.” But of course in reality, the supermarket’s fish lady, who looks neither like the Gortens Fisherman or David Letterman, opens up a box of frozen fish, thaws the suckers out (none of them are flopping) and throws them on the ice. The ice is the most authentic part of the presentation.

Growing up, my notion of fresh fish came from the Three Stooges. It’s less of a con than that supermarket presentation.

As an old fart, I began telling Janet what it was like when I was a kid growing up. We went to the Butcher Shop, the Bakery, the Fish Shop, etc. Janet’s eyes grew larger recognizing that the America I grew up in was not that different from the Philippines she grew up in – well except for the 50 years difference.

Of course once supermarkets began to grab hold, there was no turning back. My mother still got her lunchmeats and bagels at “the kosher deli” but the supermarket was impossible to resist for anything else.

Now Janet works in a supermarket and she began telling me how it really works, which is basically that nearly everything in your American supermarket got there frozen. For all I know the Scott Toilet Paper came off the truck frozen and was dethawed before it could hit my white shiny loboot.

This got me to thinking. Just as my mother went the way of supermarkets 50 years ago, we now of course use them for the convenience. But unlike her generation, that understood that supermarkets were only convenient and cheap, we’ve actually come to believe that the product is better.

After all, unless you’ve watched a Rocky movie lately, you’ve never watched the butcher carve a side of beef. Unless you’ve watched some gross documentary on Tyson’s, you don’t know or wanna know how chickens are raised or killed. BTW, you do realize that most animals poop a lot and rarely know which bathroom to use.

I hear guys all the time (myself included) express shock at Philippines wet markets. The meats and fish bake in the heat, there are flies all around, and hell, the vendors don’t always look all that sanitary. In short, it ain’t the Walmart produce section.

“Don’t worry about the flies – we won’t weigh them.”

We in the West have convinced ourselves that animals and produce come from sanitary environments without flies, or at least the flies have been sprayed to death by the latest organic pesticide.

So, we’ve taken the natural experience of a fish caught, sold and consumed immediately, perverted it with a chunk of ice, and convinced ourselves it’s better for us – that is it would be better if those darn corporations would stop providing us with tasty GMOs in our sanitary food. And then, if we’re rich kanos, we spend twice as much for products labeled organic or natural, meaning they’re grown or raised like they use to be when I was a kid and often still are in the 3rd world.

Of course when Janet and I move to the Philippines I am sure that I will still be put off by the flies in the wet market. I will just choose to remember my favorite line from the Firesign Theatre describing the Giant Toad Supermarket: “Don’t worry about the flies – we won’t weigh them.”






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