Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The assassin, the fish, the outcome & the lessons ...

The assassin:
Well, the pseudo assassin, if you will. I ordered the hit...

The fish:
Carp ...

The reason (not in title ...would just be too long ...): 
Existential crisis (ish)...

The outcome:

A few weeks ago dear readers, I was on the telephone with my fishmonger and out comes Carp!... I was about to say bless you when he tells me in an unusually animated manner that he has a treat for me. What is it! I ask in a very usual animated manner. I have a delivery of live Carp coming in on Friday morning ..... Yes! What time?! I ask. Around ten says he. I’ll be there.

I, had just ordered a fish hit.

Hence dear readers, ten o’clock Friday morning finds me in fish shop, slightly nauseated but ready (or so I thought) facing a very eager fishmonger waiving me along frantically.

Come come! You must see him come out of the water!!, says he (again with the unusually animated voice). Wavering smile on, off I went to the back of the empty fish shop (I mean where were all the people for heavens sake! It was like the old corral where you are about to see dueling pistols go at it and all that roll by are tumbleweeds! Not that I have ever been to an old corral mind you but you just know what that’s like …) to witness them “taking” my fish out of the tank.

I was prepared for a civilized pair of hands extracting a civilized fish out of …well …civilized water (how uncivilized can a fish tank be after all).

Then: A scuffle, a big commotion, simultaneous Portuguese and Kashmir curses and …whap! Right before my disbelieving eyes, a fish catapults out of the tank (more on this later) right at my fishmonger and his “apprentices”! More commotion and what are you doing?! and give me that bucket! and what a strong fish?! and so on... meanwhile …whap! whap! whap! is all I am hearing from that bucket.

Then, whap whap whap goes Carp in a plastic bag being weighed and, weighing done, Carp comes back out of bag, whap whap whap on steel counter, and finally …the mortal wound (it was very difficult and profound and I was acutely and sadly aware of extinguishing a life). I will spare you the gory (they were) details but let us just say there was whacking, gutting and a swim bladder involved … 

Not Carp. Dolphin fish. Why, you ask? Was too scared to take picture of whapping Carp ...

Scaling and gutting (slight nauseated heave) complete I think the worst is over. But no dear readers. The fish is still moving. I repeat, the fish is still moving! At this point I was close to fainting and the only thing I could think of (as the three men stood, looking right at me all smiling and nodding approvingly and saying good fish, fresh fish, strong fish!) was is this poor fish dead? So, I ask.

Of course it’s dead! These are just nerve impulses! The freshest fish always move after they have been killed! he says. Are you sure?! I say as this man who has been fishing for the last 35 years looks at me patiently. Yes yes, don’t worry he says. Well, how long does it keep moving like that? I ask (ready to heave). Ten minutes he says. Are you sure?! I say, again. Yes yes, don’t worry…


Paranoia alert: For twenty years dear readers, I have battled fish paranoia. I have not been able to go near a whole, uncooked fish with a head on because my biggest fear was that it would “wake up” or start moving. After persuading myself it was irrational (against many vehement objections to myself), that I had nothing to worry about, said paranoia was quashed in the last 4 years. Now I am able to rub fish in oil, face and all and even stuff its little body cavity on occasion. So what was happening right in front of my nauseated face, in essence, was my worst nightmare and I had to take it in the car! End paranoia alert.

I took a deep (did I mention nauseated?) breath, grabbed the bag, thanked the men, and went to the car. I debated on where I was going to put that bag because I had visions of this Carp springing up on me from the back seat (see lessons) when I was driving and then it would be all over. So I decided to put it in the front, on the ground, where I could keep an eye on it. I had some more shopping to do so I parked a few streets up, went into the shop, and came out forty five minutes later.

Groceries nestled snuggly in car, I then went to shift the Carp over because I needed to make space for something and then, it happened. The bag moved. A lot (or at least it seemed that way for a fish that had no innards!)! Forty five minutes later!!! I instantly screamed, jumped out of the car, slammed the door shut and waited to faint or for the fish to whap whap whap all over the car… whichever would come first …

Picture this dear readers, me, standing outside the car, alone, in the middle of a busy street and a snowstorm, arms crossed, staring down at the front seat, freaking out …

Yes …

After ten minutes of this, I was finally able to talk myself into getting back in the car with the rationale that I was being, well, slightly irrational and that most likely this fish would not start flapping all over the car while I was driving and that if it did, I could just scream and jump out of the car (because this is more rational yes?). So I sidled into the car, and held my breath.

I drove home with one eye on the road and one eye on the fish.

The lessons …

1. I have never appreciated a fish more in my life. Dear readers, we ate every morsel of this fish until it was just bones (Aksel ate the head ..slight shudder …). We were incredibly thankful and grateful.

2. My fishmonger is full of it. Ten minutes my a#*! I of course, went back the following week to tell him that the fish was moving after forty five minutes and the next thing I hear from his apprentice is: “Of course, Carp is one of the strongest fish out there (what?!) it can move for hours after it is freshly killed because its blood is strong as are the nerve impulses. It is a common thing with fresh fish. I have heard of Tuna that had been gutted, frozen for hours, thawed and started flapping around (oh. my. God.) fish are weird, ha ha ha …” Right. Thank you.

3. Google is never good, after the fact. All I have to say dear readers, is that I googled fish moving after being killed and wished I hadn’t. And then, sure enough, I was watching River Monsters (I know this probably does not help my fish paranoia) and what do I see dear readers? What do I see? I see Carp. Countless Carp catapulting themselves out of the water and whacking fishermen in the head on their boats while the presenter is laughing and saying in his posh British accent: “this is perfectly normal as Carp are very strong fish and some of them have even been known to break the ribs of fishermen, ouhh, watch out, whap! ha ha ha …” and all the while, the head smacking shot is being replayed, over and over again, in slow motion …

4. Carp are strong fish.

5. Fish are weird.

Time to dish.

Strong head whacking Carp with lemon and dill

Not Carp but identically prepared wild Sea Bass. Why, you ask? Because I was too scared to take a picture of cooked Carp...

Here is what you need …

  • Carp – dead or alive - if alive you're on your own for prep
  • Lemon – zest and slices
  • Olive oil
  • Bunch of dill
  • Bulgarian Feta - sliced
  • Cracked pepper
  • Backfat - sliced

Here is what to do ...

  1. Thank your fish for being on your plate while looking adoringly into its eyes (what?!). Then, score its little sides (for increased flavor permeation and cooking time) and rub all over with the lemon zest and olive oil.
  2. Stuff its little body cavity with the lemon slices, creamy Bulgarian feta slices, backfat slices and lots and lots of  beautiful dill.

Roast (high heat). Extract (carefully).  Enjoy (with a loved one and a crisp white).

Extended existential for those who have made it this far: 

Being the urban dweller (with the soul of a tribesperson) that I am, for the last two years (ish) I have been spending a little time in the existential realm of food and mankind. Thoughts have been gingerly tiptoeing through my mind (I will spare you… for now…uaaaaagghhhh…insert me here sinisterly rubbing my palms together…). Countless books on humans/food/land/animals/science have made their way into our home. I will spear you the dredge that I have been crawling through (for now …insert above slightly nutty parenthesis here for the rest) but for our purpose today let us just say that I had decided that if I was capable of eating fish then I should be brave enough to participate (ish) in what it takes to go from water to plate. Context out, roger that...


  1. Making me hungry for some carp right about now.

    Great pics!

  2. I feel so rude... haven't stopped laughing for a full minute. What a great story! I'm sure the carp was delicious and that you'll bring yourself to post pictures - nay, video! - the next time. Congratulations!

  3. @Anonymous - Super, thanks! Maybe next time I will bring myself to take one of an actual Carp :)

  4. @ Adriana - That's so cool! Not rude, awesome :).Thanks Adriana, that makes my day. Yes ...video ... one fear at a time, oui? :) Can't wait to make your risotto ...

  5. This was hilarious. I had to stop reading twice because I was laughing so hard. Especially at the standing in the snowstorm because the fish was moving in the car. I would so do exactly the same thing.

    And I bet it was delicious.

  6. @ Christina - Thanks Christina! :) Yeah ...what I didn't put in the post is that while I was standing there riddled with fear, suspiciously eyeing the fish, I was also laughing at myself (so I wouldn't cry). You can imagine onlookers with thoughts sch as: Look this nut standing outside her car, looking at it, in a snowstorm, laughing at herself ...

    It was :)

  7. Nest time bring your raket and hit the fish with the frame several times before start driving.
    I'd suggest a Pinot Noir to fight against this strong and hard to kill Crap.
    Now I love Carp, fighting till the end (and after the end)!

  8. @Rodrigo - LOL! :) I swear you need your own show. Really. I mean it. Now Carp will follow me on the tennis court...

  9. Very funny (sorry) and nodding my head. having fished with my dad as a child and being taught to gut a fish at a young age (still gross) I have seen this phenomena many times. The best is salting the fillet and seeing it jump out of the plate and onto to the floor a couple of times. I knew 10 min was a lie lol

  10. @ Cheap Ethnic Eats - Okay, I am officially freaking out. WHAT?!! Filet JUMPING off the plate?!! LOLLLLL! :) Sorry I would die - just drop dead right on the spot. Omg. Omg. I am going to have to grill you about this a little more ...Eeeeeekkk!