Fish Fry

I have issues when it comes to eating meat.
I’d probably be a vegetarian if I didn’t like meat so much. I have no problem eating a hamburger, but I can’t eat something that looks like what it was when it was living. Take crab for example. Give me a crab cake, I’m a happy camper. But don’t ask me to crack open a crab’s leg and rip out the meat. Can’t do it. Not when I can still imagine it happily crawling around the ocean floor. Shrimp? I like ’em fried. But I can’t tear off their legs and peel them. Ugh.
So this weekend, Lee and I went to Fitzgerald, and our friend Dave joined us. Saturday afternoon, Lee’s neighbor Mr. Freeman announced he was having a fish fry, and we were invited.

Mr. Freeman is a nice guy. He’s also lonely. His wife recently passed away, and he’s quick to tell you it’s lonely around the house. He caught all the fish himself and there were tons of fish. He wanted to share them with someone.
So we obliged. But man, oh man, the fish. There they were, soaking in water in the sink. Millions of them. Their heads were gone (thank goodness) but they still looked very fishy with their fins and tails. I like fish – you know, like blackened Mahi Mahi. Doesn’t look like fish. These fish – I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one start swimming in the sink water.
Mr. Freeman fired up the fryer. Lee salted their dead, fishy bodies, and Mr. Freeman threw them in the oil. They smelled good, but no amount of batter could hide the fins and tails. And the bones. Oh goodness the bones.
I really didn’t want to be rude and not eat Mr. Freeman’s fish. I put one on my plate. My plate looked really sad. Everyone else had piled up the fish and there sat my lonesome catfish. Alva gave me instructions on how to eat it. “Bite gently into the meat and it will slide off the bone.” Oh the bones.
I did it. The meat was actually pretty good. I ate most of the meat off my one fish, though it still freaked me out when my tongue touched the bones. The skeleton looked like something out of a Garfield cartoon. But I ate the fish, and I was proud.
Then Alva tried to get me to eat the tail. “It’s just crunchy, it doesn’t taste like anything.” No way I was going to do that. I braved the meat and the bones, but I just couldn’t eat its tail.
I was feeling okay, then Mr. Freeman began reminiscing about when he and his wife used to clean the fish. He said something about busting the blood pocket, and I thought I was going to lose it. Erin had a horrible expression on her face, so I took comfort that I was not alone in my unease.
But in the end, despite the very fishy looking fish, it was a good evening. It was nice to spend time with Mr. Freeman, especially when you know your presence is so appreciated. As he handed Lee and me a bottle of his homemade wine, he glanced at me and reminded Lee, “Tell her you love her every night and hold her close.” It reminded me I have much for which to be thankful – including the company of good people, a loving husband, and even the fish.