3.02.2011

I'm sorry, but I hate fish

Well now that the cat's out of the bag, I should elaborate a little. It's weird and I can't help it but fish really, and I mean really, gross me out.  I don't even like standing next to fish tanks.  Those slimy creatures with their flappy gills and their buggy and beady little eyes...no thank you, I'd like no part. Gross times a thousand. (Ironically, I love the ocean though. Explain that to me, please.). When I saw on my school syllabus that I'd have to spend three hours in a seminar on fish butchering I tried not to think about it, but tonight was the night and I had to face it.  (Before I get too into this post, I should warn you (especially if you really like fish) that this post might get a bit gory.  I'd understand if you don't want to keep reading.)

I went into tonight talking myself up.  Reminding myself how I wasn't grossed out in the least about deboning a chicken, even when asked to do so by barely using my knife.  I've always been fearless in the kitchen, why should this be different? I psyched myself up, telling myself that no one would even have to know about my strong feeling towards sea creatures.  I can do this.  I'm tough and that's that.  I'm going to show that fish who's boss.

I started to feel a little queezy as a giant striped bass was slapped down on the cutting board in front of me. With a shaky hand, I took my boning knife and started to slice through the belly of the fish.  Out slid a mass of slimy and unidentifiable organs and whole lot of what I'll politely call "goop".  My face got hot. My throat went bone dry and then I knew I was in trouble.  I flung off my apron and ran to the bathroom. And vomited. Three times. At culinary school.  It was mortifying and it's the type of thing that is real easy to beat yourself up about.  How can I be in this profession if I can't break down a fish without getting rid of my lunch in the process?  I felt like I was in there forever.  I finally straightened myself up and sheepishly walked back out there and tied my apron around me.

At this point, I'd love to tell you that I conquered my fear and I gallantly picked up that knife and gutted the next one without missing a beat.  I did not.  Instead, I swallowed my pride and begged my friend Simone to remove the head and innards of the next fish and I shot the chef an apologetic look.  My other friend Genevieve cracked jokes that made me laugh. "You can do this" she then said with such conviction I almost believed it.  I did pick my knife back up, tried to think happy thoughts and cut fillets from the flesh of the fish. I was at least doing that and that has to count for something, right?

While I am disappointed because I couldn't seem to get past it, I'm proud of myself for at least facing it to the best of my ability.  I tell you this story because, although embarrassing, it's important to my development and kitchen education, thus important to the story I tell of my experience at culinary school.  Often times people think that culinary school is easy and that it's "just playing around in a kitchen all day".  While it's awesome and I appreciate each and every last minute of it, it constantly challenges me to be better and to get a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses and for that, I know I'll be even better in the kitchen.  Through tonight, I also got a better understanding about kitchen life.  You see, it's totally a team effort on all fronts, sort of like playing sports and even though I felt a little defeated, I felt such a strong sense of camaraderie with my fellow kitchen mates that made this night feel like it's not a total wash.

15 comments:

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I love that you candidly shared this experience. I think it is admirable that you gave it an honest try!

Boston Food Diary said...

Ohhhh Katie!!!! I know how much you were dreading this section, and I know how much incredible strength you have to do as much as you did. Everyone has a thing that grosses them out- you've found yours- and now you can move on. Ugh- on to better things now!!!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

Hehe... well at least you tried!! I hate nuts and can't seem to move past it!

Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle said...

Yes! Someone like me! I thought I was the only person in the world who did not like fish. I can't stand to even be near it either. Walking by the fish counter at the supermarket gets me a little queasy. Ick.

Erin said...

I can so relate. I really only like a few kinds of fish and only if they're cooked by people who know what they're doing with fish. I can't even begin to imagine having to gut and de-bone a bass. EEEK!

In my fantasy of going to Culinary School I always wondered what the hell I would do when/if I ever had to work and eat fish dishes. I have no idea how one can cook fish for others well if you can't abide the smell or taste yourself. It's a mystery...obviously I would never make-it on Top Chef.

Good luck with the next fish challenge and rest assured that you're not alone!

Megan said...

Oh my gosh... I'm glad you got through it. Ugh... I can't even imagine trying to gut a fish. There was sea bass for sale at Whole Foods the other day for $5.99 a pound... ridiculously good sale, but they were whole, and I couldn't fathom trying to clean them and get to the edible parts. I do love fish, but I love when someone else cleans it and filets it.

Dale Cruse said...

We all have our lines & thanks for sharing yours with us. I discovered mine a year or two ago when I thought I was buying some octopus tentacles from a fish monger to make calamari.

Turned out what I had was a whole, frozen octopus. When I defrosted it & took it out of the bag... I just couldn't.

I don't think I've ever confessed that to anyone before, but somehow it felt okay to talk about this time.

Thanks. And good luck.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Thank you! I'm loving hearing everyone's stories and happy I'm not the only one that can't handle something in the kitchen. Everyone has something...right? At least that's what I keep telling myself!

Adrienne said...

Fish night was brutal, right? It was by far the grossest night of butchering for me, too, but I've cooked a TON of fish since then. It gets easier to deal with the icky stuff, and beef next week is better. Good luck!

Melissa said...

Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks for not including photos! I've always hated fish, even before I was a vegetarian, but I've never known anyone else that did too! I hold my nose and block my eyes or completely avoid the fish aisle in grocery stores, and hate seeing lobster tanks in restaurants. Good for you for powering through and getting back out there.

Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane said...

I'm with Melissa on this one. It sounds as if photos would have made this post a little less endearing!

So proud of you for facing your fear! :)

tastytablespoons said...

I'm not a huge fish person either. I really don't want to know how they get from the ocean to my plate. I applaud you!

tastytablespoons said...

What I meant was I don't want to think about it. I feel the same way about beef, pork. chicken...... :)

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing with us. Sorry you had a rough night...

Alicia said...

Hopefully everything is looking up! So proud of you for facing your fears! hopefully with time it will get easier?

I once cleaned lettuce from the farmers market and found a big worm - I puked immediately.

It was totally clean and fresh (obviously if there was a living buggy in there) but it just completely grossed me out. I stayed away from lettuce for a little while.

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