On long-ago Sunday mornings, the best part of the paper was the grocery coupon insert where anything and everything new to the stores could be found. These food-like products sounded so good and I would get so excited by a new flavor of cereal, cookie, chip or ice cream, all of which were nothing but basically reformulations of refined sugars, oils and grains. My groceries unfortunately consisted mainly of those types of things rather than fresh, whole foods. It’s crystal clear now why I didn’t feel well most of the time. Now I just get furious when I see those awful coupons or walk past all that junk food in the store. I now know what good foods are out there, what makes me feel best and that’s what I buy. Skipping the processed foods and keeping it real makes life easier, happier and healthier.
However, once in a while I come across new foods that revive that old excitement. And I’m not talking about that display of bags of rancid oil, artificial flavorings and salt coated spuds which– and I’m not kidding– was Lay’s Cappuccino flavored potato chips. Although there was a time when I would have felt very tempted to try them (particularly if there was a coupon involved).
I’m talking about a new discovery in the fish case! Who knew you could eat a skate? A trip to Dave’s Marketplace last Sunday for fish to cook for lunch turned into an unexpected culinary experience. Amidst the usual scallops, cod and salmon I spied Narragansett Bay Skate. It looked like your average white fish. “How do you cook it?” we asked the fish monger to which he replied “Like sole.” Easy enough. Always up for trying something local, we bought a couple of fillets to bring home.
A life-long fisherman, Chris tells me that skate was always considered a junk fish (at least around this area). It was thrown back if hooked or used as bait for lobster and crab trapping. “I can’t believe I am paying for skate!” But we both think it’s cool that alternate types of seafood are being introduced as food to help ease the overfishing occurring with the popular species.
Googling the subject I came across an interesting article called Eat More of what Narragansett Bay has to Offer. It’s about a woman named Sarah Schumann from Warren, RI who started a program called Eating with the Ecosystem. Because the demand for certain species of fish is so high, overfishing them threatens those species while others overpopulate. This leads to unsustainable fishing practices and an imbalance in the ecosystem. Local chefs are involved in Sarah’s program which is a fantastic way to get people to try some of these unfamiliar foods from our ocean. Did you know that skate is one of the more sought after delicacies in Europe? One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. You may have heard of monkfish– the “poor man’s lobster,” which is another fish that used to be considered unsuitable for eating but is now regularly available. I love it!
We brought our fillets home, baked them with lemon juice and a seafood seasoning blend and we all agreed they were delicious! The skate had a softer, meatier consistency and was not flaky like the common white fish we are all used to. I have read some people’s opinions that skate tastes just like scallops which are probably my number one favorite type of seafood. Scallops weren’t what came to my mind while eating it but I read this after the fact and in retrospect can see the similarity. It makes me want to try it again soon.
In case you don’t know what a skate looks like:
Here are the uncooked fillets:
And the final meal:
The salad greens and the mushrooms were from the farmer’s market. Those are maiitake and pioppino mushrooms sautéed with olive oil, onions and garlic. That’s raw blue cheese on the salad. The sweet potato fries were sliced up sweet potatoes tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and baked in the oven. Simple meal. Healthy meal. That’s how we like to do it. I feel so amazing when I eat like this.
It’s interesting how we tend to eat what is familiar to us, while in other parts of the world they are eating creatures that we don’t consider food. I am fascinated with this, hence my love of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations which really opened my eyes and my mind about food, culture and the natural circle of life. Watch it if you want to see beyond the American way of Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and KFC. (His show played a role in my decision to eat animals again and see food and life from another perspective.)
There are some things I have a hard time understanding. For one, how the MINI dealership feels it is okay to charge me $300 for an oil change and spark plugs. Another being how often people tell me they are bored with what they are eating. This is a mysterious concept to me. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of food choices that I find it hard to grasp this phenomenon. We really should be feeling nothing but extremely grateful for everything we do have. If you’re tired of the same things, buy something new! Or cook your old favorites a different way. Combine things you never thought to combine. Try a sauce or seasoning that sounds good. Get on the internet and search for recipes and ideas. There is no excuse for feeling bored with your food. Start thinking more outside the Rice a Roni box. That meal above wasn’t planned. We simply bought the fish, came home, figured out what vegetables we had around and got to work preparing it. No degree in rocket science required. And definitely no boredom.
Keep real food around your house and you’ll eat real food. Remember that although we buy most of our food from a grocery store, food does not come from a grocery store. This modern-day convenience was not always such a luxury and isn’t even a reality for many people around the globe. Food comes from actual plants and animals. Your food came from gardens, trees, the earth, the ocean and farms. It was simple at one time but now feels complicated. Unlearn and ignore the marketing, advertisements, commercials and nutrition claims on processed foods. Don’t make it confusing; just eat real food.
PS. 46 days til spring!