The Fish Took a Wrong Turn
The most striking difference about grocery shopping in Portugal as opposed to the U.S. is seeing whole animals at the fish counter and the butcher. I had pretty much gotten used to the baleful eyes of a small fish on my dinner plate when I went to my local supermarket — widely known for its high quality fresh fish — and saw two large salmon curled up on the ice with steaks partially cut from head to tail. The critters must have recently taken a wrong turn into the fishing net, because their eyes were clear and their skin firm. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, but trust me — these were two majestic animals. [Update: I had many opportunities to photograph similar fish throughout my stay.]
Richard and I cooked a tasty dinner last night, and the lunch special at our local cafe today was — guess what! — salmon steaks. I really do like the idea of knowing our dinner is fresh. In the United States, filets and other pre-packaged cuts dominate, and one doesn’t know for sure the freshness or quality. Periodically, we’ve had to throw out fish purchases at home, and regular outbreaks of salmonella and e-coli testify to the problems of factory farming and shipping meat thousands of miles.
That said, getting fish and meat close to the source offers lessons in the cycle of life and a less-than-forgiving natural world. I have a terrible sense of direction and invariably get lost anywhere I go. Part of the reason I’m learning Portuguese as quickly as I am is because I have to ask directions several times to get anywhere. If I were a salmon, I suspect I would have been the one that took the wrong turn and ended up on a bed of ice at the market.
In some cultures, people sitting down to dinner thank the animal that gave its life so they can eat. I’m sorry I don’t have the picture of the salmon, but honor should still be given to the creatures that took a wrong turn in the unforgiving world where they lived.