A fish-cleaning ceremony

Published 8:13 pm Thursday, July 8, 2010

Walking the food beat here at the Suffolk News-Herald, I’ve learned that it’s not always the food that makes a food adventure interesting. It’s the food processes you get to experience.

A couple weeks ago, I headed over to Constance Road to have a chat about seafood with Brenda Brock and Mrs. Kim at M&R Seafood Market & Takeout.

Before you step inside an establishment whose prime commodity is fish, you must prepare yourself for one thing — the smell. And that’s not something I mean in a bad way, either. Enjoying the smell of a fish market or restaurant is something that separates the true foodies from those who merely like to eat.

Email newsletter signup

So quite frankly, as I do every time I enter a fish house, I fell in love with the odor of fish all over again. Because for me, it’s not what the smell actually smells like but what the smell of fish reminds me of.

The odor of fish takes me back to summers in North Carolina at my aunt’s house, when her boyfriend came back from fishing. There would be icy cold buckets of all types of fish that needed cleaning. And just like enjoying the smell of fish separates foodies from the rest of the pack, the task of cleaning fish is a ritual by which — when successfully completed without losing one’s breakfast — a foodie earns his or her metal.

You really have to be in love with food to grab the nearest sharp knife and do what one has to do to get a fish ready for human consumption. In that moment when a fish is being cleaned, a foodie sees a beautiful ceremony where a mere food fan has already taken ill.

So I was in a world of seafood wonder for the few minutes I toured M&R seafood that day. Seeing the cleaned, seemingly newly knighted, little fish lain out on the ice in the display case almost brought a tear to my eyes for a number of reasons.

It was great talking with the nice ladies at M&R. To them I say this: Get used to the mug that runs with this column, because you will see a lot of it. And please be kind if I should come by for a little whiff of fish or to watch the ceremony of fish cleaning.

Just remember, I’m just a harmless foodie who gets a little homesick sometimes.