Actually, whole fish.
Anyone who has ever tackled a lobster, or eaten a clam or oyster, has been faced with an entire sea creature. And this is why myMEGusta is so surprised at the very American aversion to whole fish on a plate.
But, we don’t judge, so let’s talk about ordering a whole fish and dealing with it.
First, why? Because a fish cooked on the bone is better. Period. The meat adjacent to the bones stays moister and tastier than if directly exposed to heat, and this is try whether grilled, or fried, or baked in foil or parchment.
Then, how? Just ask the waiter to bone it for you. They’ll take it away, whether back to the kitchen or to a side stand, and, voila, lovely little filets return on the plate. They’ll even do this at the Red Lobster, it’s not some kind of fancy French service.
But what about the head?
It’s the best part, although we realize that most readers won’t believe this. The meat is tender and rich, and the cheeks are a real delicacy. You can even buy cod cheeks in fish markets in the Boston area!
On one occasion, at a business banquet in Hong Kong, one course was a whole, big fish. Fortunately for myMEGusta, no one else seated at her table knew much about eating this, so they all took tasty chunks of the body meat (OK, that’s what most normal people would do), and she was able to grab the head without appearing to be greedy (no one else wanted it). Delicious! And the waiter came over and said “You know how to eat Chinese food!!”
There are traditions and myths about whole fish.
When a whole fish – whether a trout or a sole or a sea bass – is served in France, the head is always on the left side of the plate. We have no idea why this is, but vividly remember a chef-instructor in Paris many years ago saying “La tete a gauche, Mademoiselle!” (“The head on the left, Miss!”) Readers! If you know why, other than tradition, please comment!
As for fishing related myths, the Japanese never turn a fish once plated, carefully lifting the bones to reach the meat on the plate-side, because of an old belief that if the fish is flipped over, the fishing boat will capsize. They also believe that the presence of a woman on that vessel will cause it to sink. Then there’s the American superstition about bananas bringing bad luck on a fishing boat. We don’t make this stuff up.