Fish are like this: strange little aliens... in the ocean as under the knife and on the plate. There is a peculiar and beautiful, even delicate sort of otherness to fish. We cannot relate to them as terrestrial creatures. Their parts are not ours, and they lack the ruddy physicality of terra firma. They are shrouded in mystery. We know less of what is in our oceans and waterways than we do of our galaxies.

Slippery and obstinate under the knife, fish resist intervention. Microscopic bones and nearly-transparent scales evade even the most surgical scrubbing. Their ungainly forms react to heat in surprising ways, often shrinking and warping into shapes that resist perfection unless attended to with care.

Yet for the courageous and for the curious, the ethereal and complex and bizarre world of fish contains multitudes. A life spent contemplating, catching, manipulating, cooking, and eating fish is a life well spent.

Here are some things I have learned about fish:

  • Stick your nose in it, raw. If it smells like ocean or nothing at all, it is fresh
  • Never buy a fish with cloudy eyes
  • Fish begins spoiling the second it leaves the water
  • A perfectly cooked piece of fish is just barely opaque. White excretion from fish meat means it is overcooked
  • Overcooked fish tastes dull and flat. Well-cooked fish is delicate and complex and often sweet
  • Nearly every fish on earth is excellent if seasoned with salt, cooked lightly in butter, and finished with a squeeze of citrus or a dash of vinegar

Image created with generative AI. Prompt: scorpionfish, pen and ink, white background; Firefly; 6 attempts