Fish in My Life

Icelandic Cod, One of My Favorites

Here I am, talking about food again. Today for lunch, Martine and I went to Captain Kidd’s Seafood Restaurant in Redondo Beach for a delicious fish feast. Martine had sautéed Alaskan cod while I had fish tacos.

When I was young, I wouldn’t eat any seafood. Don’t forget: I was raised near Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes, which was badly polluted until recently. When I saw fish in their natural element, they were mostly floating in a state of advanced decay on the surface of the lake. The only other place I saw them was at church fish fries. I occasionally attended, under duress, but did not like the fish: I merely nibbled on the French Fries. (That was before I discovered what malt vinegar does to improve fried fish and potatoes.) We never had fish at home.

It was not until I came to California that I began to eat fish. I ascribe this to (1) being distantly removed from family pressures and (2) the influence of my co-workers when I began working in the computer software industry. And from eating cooked fish, it was only a small stutter-step to eating sushi. My sushi-eating reached its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was most fashionable in Southern California. Now I find it too expensive, and I find that really good places with trained Japanese sushi chefs are now few and far between.

I even eat shellfish from time to time, but I find I have a curious allergy to shrimp and lobster caught in warm waters. The symptoms are like a sudden onset of strep throat pain lasting for up to two hours. When I go to cold-water places like Canada and Iceland, I have no trouble with either; and I positively love good lobster.

This past week, I’ve had fresh fish three times. Twice it was in the form of spicy fish fillet in black bean sauce at local Chinese restaurants. The Hong Kong Barbecue on Broadway in Chinatown makes a particularly tasty version.


Where Lobster Is King

Maine lobster license plate

The most pleasant surprise of our recent vacation was my discovery of North Atlantic shellfish, particularly lobster, crab, clams, shrimp, and mussels—but particularly lobster. Whenever I had eaten lobster or shrimp caught is warm Pacific waters, I started feeling a scratchy throat that would last for several hours. In Maine and Maritime Canada, however, that was not the case. Martine and I sat down to seafood feasts at least once a day, and sometimes more.

Why I could not eat California lobster and why North Atlantic lobster from Maine and Nova Scotia was so succulent, I cannot guess.

The standard option was something called a lobster roll. This reached its most Lucullan proportions at the Main Street Market & Grill in Bar Harbor, Maine. Inside a sesame seed bun was a several inches thick congeries of lobster pieces, mostly from the claw. There was minimal mayo and other garnishes to detract from the experience.

Throughout the area, the clam chowder was a standout. We also tried lobster bisque (good) and lobster stew (which is a soup, and outstanding), mussels, crab rolls, and other shellfish menu items. What neither Martine nor I know how to do is to perform surgery on a lobster or crab carapace and hoist out all the tasty bits using a dazzling array of tools. No matter: It’s the meat we were after.

On the mad dash from Bar Harbor back to the airport at Manchester, New Hampshire, we detoured to Kennebunkport, Maine, and had our last fling at Mabel’s Lobster Claw, having to pass the famous Clam Shack because they had no indoor seating, and we were in the middle of a rainstorm. That detour cost us dear, as it seems that every stretch of road was under repair, and fat men in raincoats stood by like so many Paddington Bears in their yellow slickers while we fumed away in traffic.

When I saw how much Martine enjoyed lobster, I decided to make a slight change in our itinerary so that we could visit a lobster museum and hatchery in Bar Harbor called the Oceanarium. (I would provide a link, but their website appears to be having problems.) We spent two hours learning about how lobsters are hatched and trapped; and then we were off to the Main Street Market & Grill to have ourselves some.

Note: Regarding my last post, I finally got in touch with my physician, who prescribed some additional antibiotics and some Advair and Albuterol to keep the asthma down. It seems to be working, such that last night I managed to sleep for ten and a half hours—my first good sleep for two weeks.