I definitely would not have about 5 years ago! Then I met my husband.
And now dinner include eyes, skin, bones, and tail. I think I have finally passed through the stage of, “Ewwwwww!” and I can’t believe I made it. I used to be unable to enter the stinky fish market, but I walked in there today with a mission. I screamed once when I turned over my salmon plank filet to discover slimey, slippery scales and skin on the bottom, and today I pulled this guy out without a wince. I have in the past felt compelled to name any fish with eyes that entered my house, but this guy here, he’s just called “food.”
This desensitization is all my husband’s fault, really. He insisted, and continues to insist that you’ve got to have a backbone to eat meat… and he means the chicken, the goat, the cow, the fish’s backbone.
His general idea of what makes a meal has long differed from mine, but considering we grew up in entirely separate environments — he in Ghana, me in the U.S. Midwest — the differences make sense. For example, he ate yam, I ate potato; finding either in the opposite environment is rare and pricey. While I would eat food seasoned with little else than salt and pepper, he would eat an array of spicy foods, which is said to be common in tropical environments because of the added health benefits (i.e. pepper, onion, garlic, and ginger aid digestion and act as a natural defense against bacteria). I ate Red Delicious apples; he ate juicy, golden pineapples. In this way, our diets were reflective of adaptations to our environments. Hey ancestors, that’s pretty smart.
But I would have to say our diets have been skewed by many not-so-adative factors as well. For example, the United States has seen a takeover of processed meats and trucked-in produce from all over the globe and all out of season, and Ghana has seen an increase of imported rice as a diet staple over other traditional and local starches like cassava, yam, or corn. When I first went to Ghana (as a former vegetarian), I had a hard time adapting to eating more meat than carbohydrates — and it showed for a while on my hips! When my husband first came to the United States (as a devoted carnivore), he had a hard time adapting to buying pre-packed pieces of meat lined up on the shelves like they are on display in a museum.
Well now have been eating together nearly every day for over three years, in a new home that is just about equidistant from both our original homes, and we have had to find a new balance. I think it’s interesting to see how we have influenced each other’s diets.
We now usually buy meat or fish that has not be sliced and diced — whole chickens, racks of ribs, fish ordered to be “just cleaned.” I love spicy food now, and he doesn’t mind having a salad on the side instead of a larger portion of rice. I don’t need dessert after every meal anymore, but if I make one, he’ll eat at least a small portion too. He’s still a hard sell on pasta, and I’m not quite so sure about goat meat yet, but we’ve made progress. I mean, he’ll eat pizza and even knows how to order it, and I’ll eat fish and even know how to make it!
And yes, I’ll call his chips, “french fries,” and he’ll call my cake, “a cookie,” but we try to understand each other.
Baked Fish and Chips
4 medium potatoes, cut to match sticks
1 whole fish, such as bronzini
3 slices lemon
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
On a baking sheet, arrange cut potatoes in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and drizzle with another teaspoon of olive oil. Bake chips for 25-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and release easily from the pan.
Meanwhile, prepare fish. Rinse fish inside and out, and pat dry. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on each side of the fish, then generously season with salt and pepper. Stuff half the garlic and white ends of the scallions inside the fish cavity and sprinkle with additional salt. Place fish on a low rimmed baking dish or roasting pan, and top with lemon slices and remaining garlic. Reserve green tops of scallions for garnish.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until inside flesh turns white and opaque. Transfer fish to a platter. Garnish with remaining scallions and serve with chips and side salad (if your husband will eat one).
Not much was left on this platter after dinner tonight — just a backbone.