Who’s Gonna Clean the Fish

The first thing is to take a sharp knife and remove the scales.

The first thing is to take a sharp knife and remove the scales. Don’t let the scales go down the drain though!

I met a man, when I was a single woman living in Vallejo, who thought of me when he caught a salmon on the Benicia shoreline. That’s what he told me when he showed up at my door, proudly putting the large fish in my kitchen sink. I was impressed. Jumping ahead in the story a little, I will tell you that I married that man.

But, the day that he showed up at my door with a salmon, I asked him what I was supposed to do with that beautiful fish. I had eaten fresh salmon before, and I had cooked fresh salmon, but I had never gone fishing. I was used to buying fish fillets, not whole fish. I was a fish cleaning virgin.

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The next step is to cut them open, remove the guts and chop off the heads.

I still don’t know what he grumbled to himself when I told him that I didn’t know how to clean a fish. It was probably not very flattering. It might have had something to do with me being a New Yorker, or just not a southerner, or maybe it was something about being spoiled, lazy, privileged, stupid, for not knowing what to do with a fresh fish? I’ll probably never know. But I do know that fish cleaning isn’t any more his favorite thing to do than anyone else’s.

But, he went ahead and cleaned that fish for me. And I watched closely. And of course I invited him to dinner. The truth is, I just don’t like to feel stupid if I can help it. And my husband, he’s both a gardener and a fisherman. When he brings food in from his bountiful field, I prepare it. He does the muscle work and I do the kitchen work; it’s a partnership that produces plenty. So I figure if he catches the fish, then I can clean the fish.

I was thinking about how things evolve while I was cleaning crappy for dinner on Sunday. I’ve gotten to be efficient at this job. Not only that, but I’ve learned to fry fish to perfection (perfect is not a word that comes easily off his lips.) I can’t say that I like cleaning fish. I would be lying. But I do like to say I can, not I can’t or I won’t or I don’t.

But, I draw the line at catfish. The way I see it, a catfish needs to be cleaned before it ever comes into my kitchen, so that’s not my smelly job. Who can do it…

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