What the Salmon Taught Me

So, where were we? Right. The salmon steaks were sizzling away and I was gagging on the smell.

Fortunately the gagging stopped pretty quickly. I guess my brain got used to the odor and tuned it out. Steaks cooked, Raul transferred them on to plates and put a jar of tartar sauce on the table (because we all know the real reason fish exists as food is for tartar sauce – or wasabe for sushi).

"Careful," he said (in Spanish, of course), "there are a lot of bones."

Damn! So much for wolfing it down in three unchewed bites! (Or would that be sharking it down since it’s fish?)

Tentatively, I peeled off a piece of salmon, dipped it in the tartar sauce and popped it into my mouth. As my tongue searched for bones, I noticed a distinct lack of nausea-inducing fish oils. I tried another piece, this time without tartar sauce. Hey, not bad!

Small piece by small piece I ate the whole steak, taking an unheard-of fifteen minutes to eat it. As a child, a neighbour had died on a chicken bone and small bones in food have freaked me out a bit ever since. I then realized I was doing something my naturopath had tried to get me to understand years ago. I was using food to live in the moment. My thoughts were wholly on the salmon. I was not just eating it, but savouring the texture, the way each flake melted off the morsel in my mouth, sometimes to reveal a thin sharp spine, other times to reveal just more salmon.

I’ve purposefully focused on living in the moment before but rarely do I come to it spontaneously. I was therefore totally thrilled that I was doing so and that it had been something I’d normally reject out of hand that got me there.

Someday Lessons:

  • If you’re not open to trying (and retrying) experiences, you’ll miss out on a lot of great moments.
  • Sometimes understanding comes sneaking up on you, revealing itself when you least expect it.

P.S. It took a day and a half to clear the apartment of the smell of fish.

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13 thoughts on “What the Salmon Taught Me

  1. Janet Sandberg says:

    Good job, Alex! I love salmon (will occasionally eat other fish but will not go near any other kind of seafood) so am very happy to hear that you liked it this time round. As for the fish smell, I find that burning incense is usually a good way to get rid of it.

  2. Writer Dad says:

    I’ll try just about anything. Except sushi, which is the one thing my wife would truly love for me to enjoy with her. I just can’t do it. The very idea makes me gag. And she doesn’t like the uncomplicated stuff; she like quail eggs and whatnot. Sigh. Maybe someday.

  3. Alex Fayle says:

    @ Janet:

    Incense! What a great idea. I’ll have to try that sometime.

    @ Writer Dad:

    You did not just say “someday” on this blog, did you? 😉

    I’ve had quail eggs benedict before at some fancy shmancy networking event – they were very yummy. I’ve had sushi here in Spain and enjoyed it but not rolls because the seaweed is just too strong-tasting.

  4. Penney says:

    Too funny Alex! My dad chocked on a fish bone when I was little and let me tell you eating fish was a big deal in my house. He went thru it like he was pureeing it for a baby and somehow would still end up with a bone in his mouth. Consquently, I use to go thru fish the same way, painstaking breaking it into minute pieces and even going thur it with my hands. (Definitely not something to order in a restaurant). I have since relinquished the frisk down with my fish and just enjoy and eat carefully. It is funny though how that one childhood memory can be so engraved in our brains.

  5. Rita says:

    Alex,

    What a great story! Though you learned a lot, one thing I noticed is that you never said:

    1. if you LIKED the salmon, as more than an “experiment.”
    2. if you’re going to smile and say “GREAT” the next time salmon is offerred up for dinner!

    Just curious…

    Rita

  6. I hated salmon until I ate some that was really cooked well. BBQs are great for cooking fish (odour’s outside).

  7. Alex Fayle says:

    @ Penney
    Wow – that would make eating fish really unpleasant! Glad you’ve relaxed a little. Must be much less stressful now.

    @ Rita
    It was fine. I’d eat it again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

    @Jacki
    Yes, I can imagine how good it would be on the BBQ, given how good it was on the indoor grill.

  8. Jonszi says:

    Huesos=Bones
    Espinas=Bones

    ¿?

  9. Alex Fayle says:

    @ Jonszi
    Espinas = spines, pero no usamos esta palabra cuando hablamos del pescado. La usamos mas con animales (puas) o plantas (espinas).

  10. Interestingly, salmon and trout (both red) are the only fish I do really like! Love them actually. I am very guilty of not savouring my food. Food for me is nourishment. That’s it, that’s all. I try to concentrate on the food as I’m eating, but I get bored, and my thoughts drift off again, and the food just goes in my mouth.

    One of our neighbours died choking on a chicken bone?! Why do I not know this?!

  11. writerchick says:

    Oh, what a great story, Alex. I loved it. And that in the moment thing is spectacular when you can do it, isnt’ it? I think sometimes we are all so distracted that it’s hard to slow it down and just breathe.

    Annie

  12. Alex Fayle says:

    @Annie
    Thanks! Normally I’m like my sister, the UP, and just put food into my mouth without thinking about it. The only three times I don’t do this are: when I’ve just made something yummy (like a soup), when going out for dinner is the excursion (and not the prelude to something else), and when I’m forced to slow down by the food itself.

    You’re right, though, taking the time to breathe between bites will really help.

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