A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Why I Don't Eat Seafood

Originally published: 6 September 2005

Back in the day - when Tashi was still a vegetarian - I only ate meat, and to prepare supper in the evenings was always the biggest pain.

Then Tashi started eating fish, but that didn't help because just about the only meat in this world I don't eat is fish.

In fact - I don't touch any creature that has ever lived in water, and indeed have a deep fear of ending up in seafood restaurants.

I once went to an Ocean Basket in Bloemfontein and they only had seafood on the menu. Absolutely everything was seafood, from the starters to the bloody fish head pudding, and I was with a large group of seafood-lovers who didn't share my aversion.

Sensing an opportunity to make a lot of money from our large and evidently drunk group a Manager swam into view and established that I didn't eat seafood, and he actually sent a waitress off to the Spur down the road to get a couple of fat-ass steaks, which he cooked up for me and delivered with a bunch of chips.

We made him very rich that night, I'm happy to say. We were actors living off huge weekly paycheques and we could afford to get very, very drunk.

My loathing of seafood stems from childhood, obviously, and my mother's orange hake. Not only did it smell disgusting - it was disgusting.

I never grooved on the concept of eating grey/orange fish skin (although I'm happy ripping into chicken skin, or pig fat) and the taste of the fish was always the same as the smell.

Then there were the billions of invisible bones which I had to spend hours picking out of my gums. Trying not to choke on them and have them lodge sideways in my throat was a matter of grave concern for me.

The hake was always tough and with the bones you could never get a decent mouthful and nothing irritates me more than nibbling around bones. I like to get a nice fat tear of meat - caveman style - and you just don't get that buggering around with sharp little spines in smelly little fish.

I don't even eat ribs, man - seriously. Unless I can get the meat off the bones - I just can't stand gnawing about all day, trying to get stringy bits of tendon to tear off the still-bloodied bone.

The meat always gets stuck in my teeth and no toothpick I've yet encountered has been up for the challenge of removing it, which means I walk around all day with a mouth that smells like poo. I have to be sure to keep the dog close by, so I can blame the smell on her.

That's all just fish - what about the crustaceans? Crabs, lobsters, crayfish, prawns, shrimps - are you people mad?

I've never understood folks who freak out about spiders and cockroaches yet happily eat lobsters and crayfish - they're from the same bloody phylum, man. Spiders too - the bunch of them are all arthropodae. Related! Does that not bug you?

Even worse is how you eat things like crabs - you suck the juices out of their legs. You get yourself a big old hard-backed sea-spider and you suck the runny stuff out of each of his eight legs. Freaky as bloody crabs are, they're not half as freaky as folks who suck their leg-juice.

And cracking open the back of a sea-cockroach - actually hearing the cracking of its exoskeleton - is all kinds of wrong, man. Really it is. Would you crack open a common house cockroach and rustle about under his wings to find a bit of flesh to suck on? Would you??


Don't get me started on the slimy stuff like oysters and mussels either - how you slug down a greasy, slimy, semen-covered mollusc is way beyond my comprehension and limited understanding.

I tried an oyster once and I'm still vomiting 17 years on - it was like tying a compacted nose-bogey to a piece of cotton, swallowing it and hauling it back up ahead of a projectile wave of retch.

I was at Canal Walk shopping mall a week or two ago and in the food hall I saw a sushi bar. No ordinary sushi bar, this - it is oval in shape and you sit on pretentious, no-backed stools at the counter, as a dumb waiter carries the various little pots of raw fish around for you to take samples from.

I wanted to go down there and throttle the twattie in the polo-neck and beret - as well as his way-chic girlfriend. What right does anyone have to pretend they like that crap? Who are you trying to impress? Me??

It's not working, man. I'm not impressed. It's the food version of the Emperor's New Clothes - everybody hates the damn stuff, yet nobody will say so for fear of being way uncool.

I don't mind an oke with his bit of crumbed fillet and chips, but let's dispense with the bullshit, alright? Leave off the raw stuff, stay away from the salted insects and never, ever buy me a ticket to Japan.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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