Amusing Monday: The fear of seafood

Seattle chef Becky Selengut, an expert in Northwest seafood, has been promoting her new book “Good Fish” about how to select and prepare seafood.

For a reporter, it would be obvious to interview her about the methods of cooking, unique dishes from the sea or “sustainable” seafood. I was amused by the approach taken by KUOW’s Megan Sukys, who talked with Selengut about how she overcame her early fears of eating seafood. Check out the report on KUOW, which includes an account of Becky’s uncle, who frightened a young girl as she tried unsuccessfully to chew up a clam for the first time.

The story reminded me of an incident involving my seafood-shy wife Sue, who never has been able to embrace the richness of Northwest seafood the way I do. If you ask Sue to try a bite of fish or shellfish, she demands to know, “Does it taste fishy?”

I never know how to answer this. If it tasted like chicken or steak, it would not be seafood. But I know what she means. Fish that is fresh always tastes better than the same item left on the shelf too long. The trouble is my tolerance for “fishy” is higher than hers.

Sue generally avoids shellfish as well, because — like a young Becky Selengut — she can’t stomach anything she can’t thoroughly chew up.

In 1992, Sue accompanied me to an awards ceremony in Olympia, where the book “Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk” was being recognized with a Governor’s Writing Award. Gov. Booth Gardner, who was in office at the time, presented the awards and invited everyone to a reception at the Washington Governor’s Mansion.

Washington Governor's Mansion

A buffet table was decked out with a variety of foods, including some Northwest favorites, such as the bite-sized Olympia oysters. I loved Olympias, but Sue had never tried one. So I carefully trimmed off a tender bit of oyster and offered it to her. After some coaxing, she took the bite.

To my surprise, she loved it and wanted more. So I retrieved another one. She popped the whole thing into her mouth and started chewing. To my horror, Sue said calmly, “I’m going to throw up; find me a bathroom.”

She wasn’t kidding. “What?” I exclaimed. “Here in the governor’s mansion?”

I had no idea where the bathrooms were, but if I didn’t act fast, I might be cleaning bodily fluids off the governor’s polished wooden floors and fine rugs. I grabbed a napkin from the nearby table.

“Here. Spit it out,” I said, rubbing her back to calm her down.

She had encountered that chewy part of the oyster that attaches the body to the shell. The toughness along with this mouthful of soft, alien substance had stimulated her gag reflex. We laughed at the time and are still telling this story nearly 20 years later. I must admit that Sue’s level of trust in me is rather low when it comes to seafood recommendations.

If you want to know how to select and prepare “good fish,” check out Becky Selengut’s recent video series called “Good Fish Book’s Channel,” or read her blog, Chef Reinvented.

The video below is a collection of bloopers from the video productions.

2 thoughts on “Amusing Monday: The fear of seafood

  1. Thanks for a good laugh! What a story. I have to say, I completely identify with your wife’s feelings about seafood.

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