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The Lunch from the Black Lagoon

Caught up with my old friend Andy Ferguson over lunch at a fancy downtown seafood restaurant. I ordered the super-safe, sensible, healthy filet of salmon, which is the most orderly little plate of food imaginable, with roasted potatoes and green beans on the side. No bones, no fuss, everything practically already bite-sized, with even the salmon coming apart into perfect forkfuls. But Andy...oh Andy...Andy ordered "the rockfish special," and sounded quite savvy as he did so, as though he really knew his way around a seafood menu and could zoom in on the most tantalizing option. Trust me when I tell you that the thing the waiter put down in front of Andy was the most frightening plate of food in the history of Western Civilzation. Andy all but leapt out of his chair. This was an entire fish, head included, deep fried, crusty, fragrant, and spectacularly curved, as though it had been flash-fried in the midst of a spawning run. Nasty! I said to Andy, "That's not exactly a Mrs. Paul's fish stick."

I am of the opinion that food when properly prepared and presented does not induce the fight-or-flight response. This wasn't as bad as, say, live monkey brains, but we were just trying to grab a little lunch for crying out loud. Lunch isn't supposed to be a culinary adventure. The worst part of this fish was the shocked and appalled fish-face, that expression of "please don't fry me," superimposed on the imbecilic expression that all fish have. Andy couldn't bring himself to eat it, and pointed longingly to my plate. "Bring me something like that," he said. They did, about half an hour later (punishing him for his lack of nerve). I don't know what happened to Andy's big ugly flappy rockfish but I am hoping he was able to resume the spawning run with the other fried fish.

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 14, 2005; 10:06 AM ET
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