July 6, 2009

Kitchen Confessional #2: Fish Stick Jungle

We’ve all had them at least once, whether it was at a friend’s sleep-over, a local buffet or from the kitchen of our own house. A fish stick and your gullet have had to have met at one point or another. I’d be lying if I said I have never had one or two in my youth.

Yes, in retrospect, they were disgusting. I gag at the thought of having one now, but you know what? This was a time when I agreed that seafood was a food group.

True Story: When I was a young lad, I never closed the door to any food, including fish. Whatever my parents made, shrimp cocktail, grilled shark and swordfish, tuna sandwiches, and yes – fish sticks – I ate.

After a casual afternoon of playing freeze tag with the other neighborhood kids, I was finally summoned to come home and eat dinner with the family. As I walked into the house I was immediately greeted by the aroma of a batter-dipped ocean and French fries.

“Must be fish sticks for dinner,” I thought to myself, “Sweet.”

I pulled up a seat and like clock-work a plate of steaming crispy fish logs and fries warmed my nose. Like always with any dish served with fries, I began with a squirt of ketchup on a designated side of my plate and a sprinkle of pepper. Then, like a test-toe in a hot bath, the first fry went in.

Next, the fish takes a dip. Now mind you, fish sticks were considered to be equivalent to chicken nuggets back then. So just like chicken nuggets, they got the same treatment of being served with ketchup.

I took the first bite and observed the beheaded stick. Steam still flowed out from its depths. Another bite proceeded, then another, and another. Until finally, my plate was clean.

With a belly full of God-knows-what, I went for the Nintendo. Hours pass, levels of Mario, conquered, when suddenly I begin scratching my arms, legs and back, with itching worse than 1000 mosquito bites on top of chicken pox. I started sweating profusely and finally concurred with my body that something was definitely wrong.

“Hives,” my mom said. Then out came the calamine lotion.

Dots of pink charted my body and slowly, the irritation began to cease. Finally, I was able to sit peacefully. From that night forward, I never ate fish sticks again, and to my future’s dismay, I banned everything that lived in the sea as well.

For years later, I stuck with my vow never to eat seafood again. Terrible, right?

I confess that it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I jumped back on the seafood ban-wagon. It was sushi that brought me back; a simple California Roll that reached out and said, “Welcome back old friend…welcome back….AH DON’T EAT ME!!!”

It feels great to be reunited with this food group. There was so much I have missed out on. It almost seemed like a great idea to deprive myself of this treasure from the sea, because when chicken was becoming boring, reacquainting myself with fish opened a new door of flavors and recipe exploration.

Since my recent reunion with seafood, I have developed a divine love for one of my new favorite seafood restaurants, located here in Sacramento.

Pearl on the River. I can’t get enough of the fresh Ahi Tuna, delicious clam chowder, and amazing oysters. To top it off, they are one of the only places that serve my new favorite beer on tap, Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat Ale.

Yes, I’ve gotta say it’s the good life now. No more hives, no more dry heaves at the smell of seafood, no more going hungry at the cocktail party whose hour’dervs only consist of a platter of sushi and jumbo shrimp.

I'm still a bit intimidated by some seafood dishes, but without that fear, it wouldn't be an adventure.

Happy Eats!

(Photos retrieved from donandsheila.com/.../2009/03/fish_sticks.jpg and www.20minutestolessstress.com/nemo%20sushi.jpg)

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