A Final Thought: Your fish is looking at me


By Mitch Allen

I use one of those fitness apps on my phone to track my weight, and this week I went back and reviewed my three-year history. The line graph looks like the jagged edges of a saw blade as I lose 20 pounds each summer and gain it back each winter.

The valleys occur in the middle of summer when I am most active. The peaks are always early April, when I suddenly realize that spring is here and I have a drawer full of shorts that I cannot button and a closet full of short-sleeve polo shirts that are so tight I cannot wear them without everyone knowing whether my navel is an innie or an outie.

This is also the time when I clean out the cabinets and the fridge, tossing out anything that isn’t a fish or a vegetable. I’ve given up meat for Lent, not because I’m Catholic; I just love a good fish fry (that, and I want to fit in on Cleveland’s Westside).

I enjoy seafood because there is so much variety. Instead of simply beef, pork, chicken and lamb, the seafood department at most markets features an enormous selection of creatures from the oceans, lakes and rivers—from octopus, walleye and crawfish to oysters, king crab and tilapia. That said, why was there no tilapia when I was a kid? It can’t be a new species. It’s not like God said, “Oh, wait. I forgot the tilapia...” and went back and created it.

I also like to know what critter I’m eating, so—when I can—I opt for whole fish, head-on with the bones. I know, some people don’t like their food looking at them when they eat it, but it just feels more honest to me.

Once at the popular Chicken Patio at Put-in-Bay, I eavesdropped on some kids complaining to their mother that they were grossed out because the quartered chickens grilling on the barbecue actually had bones in them. In their sheltered world, a chicken isn’t an animal; it’s a soft, fleshy, plump breast.

Or worse—a nugget.

When I go all in for weight loss each spring, I give up red meat completely. Not because it’s bad for me necessarily, but because it hangs out with a bad crowd. A steak—even a lean filet—is always accompanied by a large, salty baked potato into which I add a half-stick of butter. Burgers hang out with French fries, and roast beef isn’t roast beef unless it sits alongside mashed potatoes and gravy.

Seafood, however, I can pair with broccoli or al dente green beans and not feel like I’m missing out. And best of all, one can freeze fish with little ill-effect.

Last weekend I loaded up on seafood and fresh produce at the grocery store, then browsed the wine department before checking out, keeping my head down as I passed the cookies, pasta, potato chips, bread and everything else Chubby Me craves. I heard him whispering, “Life is short. Have a freakin’ potato chip.”

Chubby Me doesn’t care about blood pressure numbers.

I head to the self-checkout because humans never ask me for my I.D. when I buy wine, but the machine always does. It says, “An age-restricted item has been detected. Help is on the way.” I love that.

Moreover, I love it when the robot says, “An unscanned item has been detected on the belt,” as if I’m trying to steal something. Then I can get all self-righteous at the accusation. When help arrives, I shake my jowls and in my best Richard Nixon impersonation, say, “I am not a crook.” Of course, the help that is on the way is too young to understand what I’m talking about—so I’m just creepy.

The help that is on the way also makes eye contact with the head-on trout in my cart, staring into its one visible, cold, unblinking eye...and gags.

Clean up on register three.


Categories: Smart Living