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Fish with Heads

■ 24 August 2012 by James Martin

We Americans are an odd people. We seem to love handguns, for example, and praise them as vital elements of freedom. But after a night in which 19 people in Chicago were murdered with them and a morning in which this kind of mayhem was repeated in New York, Jeff Jarvis reported people angry over the fact that a warning didn’t come with the pictures of such mayhem. Gosh.

Perhaps we like ideas better than the realities they produce. Perhaps we are “murderously squeamish” or something. An odd combo. Surf and turf.

Oh, wait, that leads me to another of today’s headlines*. It involves fish. Did you know that 55% of the fish you might find in Los Angeles Restaurants are not what they’re labeled to be? Yep, so far El Lay leads in fish misrepresentation. But all the results are not in. We await San Francisco’s.

Which brings me to this: Amongst us murderously squeamish persons, it is often reported that we absolutely abhor the Italian restaurant practice of including the head with the Bronzino on our plate. Well, hold on here, the head tells you so many things; before cooking the eyes are an indication of freshness, and even after cooking you can identify species with the head (if you’re good at it) and, if you’re really good at it, you can poke around and find the ear bone, the otolith in technical terms, and absolutely know the species— that’s how archaeologists do it; the ears have it, they’re all different.

In any case, here’s the thing: there’s no downside to getting a fish head on your plate. Get over it. Animals have heads. Bullets produce blood. We are unfamiliar with either.


Head. A fish in Venice. Don’t let it kill you.

fish head

*ref: Oceana targets fishy labeling practices

If you’re read all the way down here, congrats! Here’s a bonus video, showing what happens when you get that fish with the head on it in an Italian restaurant: Ordering Fish Video.

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Fish with Heads originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com Aug 24, 2012, © James Martin.

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