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Monday, 23 May 2011

Fun and danger on the fish counter.

As part of my job I often cover for the fresh fish counter and enjoy working with the fish and shellfish. See earlier blogpost for more details about me working on the fish counter. A Fishy tale blogpost. November 2010

As I say, I enjoy working there as I am learning more about handling and advising about fish every day. My work mates are fun to work with but some of the dead fish can be surprisingly aggressive. Oh yeah those sea bass might look cute and shiny as they bathe in the ice waiting to be snapped up by an eager buyer but they are as evil as Titan and his Terror Fish from  the 1960's tv programme, Stingray.

The fins on the Bass fish fold flat when they are dead and blend in with the rest of the fish. Then when you are filleting the fish or even picking it up to weigh, the blighters jab their needle sharp fin bones into your soft fingers. Oh how the customers laugh as you emit a loud  "ow!" Some of the customers even look shocked as you view your stinging and bloody finger, whilst running for the first aid box for a blue plaster. Sometimes we have to fillet a dozen or more at a time for the oriental customers (often restaurant owners) and the exercise can turn into a fishy Russian roulette. Five done and still not stabbed, six done and still not stabbed, seven done and still not "ow! you bass -tard!" The last word being muttered under your breath, of course. De-scaling can be hazardous too with silvery scales flirting right, left and centre with the possibility of one or two in your eye.

evil bass
There are other beasties to be wary of such as the bony red tilapia fish, the scratchy bodies and claws of the langoustines and the scary horror film teeth of the hake. At least on the Tesco fish counter we don't have to deal with the crazy crustaceans like razor clams,  live crabs, live crayfish and live lobsters that appear on the 'traditional'  independent fishmongers counters.

hake and a very nervous mackerel
Then there are the dangers that can happen all the time like slipping on a patch of ice water, banging your vulnerable hands on the metal counter, cutting open your hands on very sharp knives (wearing chain mail gloves help prevent this from happening) or having random fish bones take a unexpected trip down your finger nail and probably the worse of the lot... I even shudder as I think about this one...

What can be the worst thing then Philip? Do tell us. Do you really wanna know? Yes! Yes! Stop teasing! The worst thing is getting drenched with a groin full of pongy cod water as you open a box of fresh fish where the ice has partially melted. One: it looks like you have pissed yourself, two: you stink and three it is wet and uncomfortable until you get a chance to get changed. In my case you also have the potential embarrassment of travelling home whiffing strongly of cod juice on a hot bus later in the day.

The job can be fun too but we are not really able to get up to the extremes of fun like the Pike Place fish stall in Seattle where they shout, banter, engage the customers and throw the large fish around.

Pike Place fishmongers in Seattle

Catch that pike!!
So, as you are eating your lovely fillets of fish please consider the potential dangers that brought this creature to your plate. Then of course there are the real dangers of catching the fish in the first place on the high seas. That's another level of danger completely and makes a poorly finger look I would be a complete wimp for complaining.

'Commercial fishing is one of the top ten most hazardous jobs. The Coast Guard estimates that 80% of accidents are caused by human error, and few sailors survive a commercial fishing accident on the open water. There are the risks of working on very slippery and oily surfaces in adverse weather; the chances of dismemberment or death from getting trapped by heavy machinery and being miles out at sea. There are  also wires zipping about the surface of the ship’s deck as the fish are brought aboard and sometimes visibility can be very poor. These, among many other potential dangers can lead to loss of life or serious injury’.

I think that I'll stick behind my counter thanks. "Pass the bass please. No!!! Don't throw it!" I said "Don't throw it!" OW!!


Gailsman said...

Quite strange that while I was reading your story, Gail and I were eating sea bass fillets for our dinner. Oven cooked with lemongrass and chilli. Served with rice and peas. Not the Jamaican dish, but actual long grain rice and petit pois.

Ken Devine said...

Oops! sorry Phil, I wanted to check to see if comments were being published now. It's my 6th attempt.
I thought it was a great post with good photos and humour. I learned something, too.

Phil Lowe said...

GM: Hope that you enjoyed you bass fillets. As it happens they are currently on offer at Tesco. I must admit you are getting very adventurous with your cooking. Is it Gail's choice?

Ken: Glad you enjoyed my post my friend. :0)