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A Pisces Dinner

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

ON MY BIRTHDAY, SEAN AND I SAT FOR A MEAL of fish. Heany was off work and, thus, out of uniform—not a feather or bill to be seen.
  “No pelican work today,” he confided.
  As it was March, we both shared a birthday and had shown up for our fantasy birthday lunch Janet had provided each year with the help of a local fishmonger.
The table was covered in blue and white porcelain dishes and bowls filled with smoked mackerel, anchovies—both brown and white—haddock, chilled prawns and even cockles. There were smoked clams and oysters, dried seaweed, Japanese seaweed and Irish dulse that Sean stuffed into his mouth between chomps of smoked salmon. I liked the crunchy, sweet flavor of steamed, chilled octopus legs, tako in Japanese, that we dipped in soy sauce, brushed with wasabi and rained with lemon juice before gobbling up.
  We ate steamed cherry stone clams in garlic juice with two fresh bay leaves, salt and pepper, the shells sounding like billiards clacking whenever our hands reached into the pot. In the broth, amongst the clams, sat lobster tails—local Pacific spiney—whose tender white flesh was soaked with a dew of woodsy chanterelle mushroom. In lieu of abalone, we ate patties of great keyhole limpets which had been malleted flat, dusted with flour and quickly fried in butter. On large platters sat local oysters on the half shell with various dollops of helper toppings like sea urchin, salmon, and flying fish roe. Atop that we laid chopped scallions, beads of lemon, and champagne pools of soy.
  “Here’s to iodine poisoning!” Sean lifted an oyster and sent it back over his tongue, savoring the creature as it left flecks of shell on his teeth which he pulverized and swallowed.
  I laughed. “God I love to eat fish.”
  “Of course,” Heaney savored the mollusk. “I heard Janet was looking to get us a vintage can of dolphin to crack open.”
  “That ain’t fish,” I told him. “And forty odd years in a can ought to be rank.”
  “That’s your field, old shit.”
  “I suppose,” I reckoned.
  We toasted, glasses full of slightly cold ale. As we knocked one glass against the other, a spot of brew flew and landed onto the oysters.
  “Ah!” Sean delighted. “Wonder what that will taste like,” as he heaved the oyster up and over. “Mmmm,” eyes up in his head. “Sudsy!”
  “Sudsy, or yeasty?” I enquired.
  “Ehhh . . .” savoring. “Sudsy, yeasty,” an eyebrow raised. “And briney!”
  Together, we toasted again. “Sudsy, yeasty, briney!”

If You Like This
Try Reading
The Boys of El Fornio Ready Another Dolphin for the Sea


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