06 November 2006

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Advancement is not all bad. There is evidence that we are advancing in a positive direction; we are living longer, we are happier, the food is better. But there are ominous signs that our advancement will also be our demise, and our ozone is showing us our biggest clue.

One of the things that I think to be positive this day and age is our cuisine. Vegetables that were once only found in France are available in my grocery store; apples from Washington, cheese from Pennsylvania and Italy, avocados from Mexico, and chocolate from Belgium. These are all available at my chain grocer and if I want something more beautiful and delicate, I can shop at a specialty store.

The only two food items that truly remain regional are tomatoes and fish. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 7 years now, and in these 7 years, I’ve missed a good tomato. The tomatoes that arrive from our soil are mealy and bland. But in Oklahoma! In Oklahoma they are rich, and juicy, and sweet. The only things I ate in an Oklahoma summer were tomatoes and corn. One could cut the tomato off of the vine and eat as if it were an apple. The juice running down my chin and then onto my shirt left me with a summer wardrobe full of “tomato eatin’ shirts”.

What I miss in those fresh fruits of the summer I gain in the fruits de la mer of coastal living. Though I like to quote a
fact that Oklahoma has more shoreline than California—it remains to be fresh water--and exotic fish and exotic people tend to live in or near salted water.

It’s not often that one will try to enjoy sushi in Oklahoma. I tend to shy away from such nonsense. Sushi is best left to the Japanese artists and the fish is best if alive hours before service. There are few Japanese and even fewer tuna living in the plains.

I have found that most cooks are confused about fish and the best way to enjoy it. First thing first is to know that some fish are more toxic than others. The best way to learn the best fish to prepare in your area is to visit a local fish monger and ask him which fish are best.

I find that white fish of a general sense are best prepared with a lemon or white wine based cream sauce. These types of fish often are best sautéed and cooked until they are opaque in the center. The white fish often is very light in flavor, so be careful in your selection of sauces so as to not overpower the delicate flesh. Also be careful to season well, otherwise you’ll come to believe you don’t like fish as it will most certainly be flavorless.

Salmon is a fish easily found on your grocers’ shelves. I find Salmon to be very rich, and it can be prepared much in the same way one would prepare steak or chicken; Hearty rubs, sauces, and stews are befitting for this oily fish.

When a food is truly regional, there is always more to learn. Don't be afraid to experiment--if you hate it, you can throw it away and grab a fish taco at the corner taqueria for a dollar.


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