I first started buying fish from the local farmers’ market in 2012 in an attempt to eat a little healthier, both for me and our world. This is what I wrote back then.
We waited up at night for the men to come home from their camping trip. They often didn’t get back until quite late and those of us in the next generation old enough to stay awake did so. There was the excitement of that “Dad’s home” moment plus our fascination with the damp hessian bags that emerged from the back of the utes and station wagons.
Lit by the beams of car headlamps, the men unwrapped fresh river fish and distributed it amoung the families’ eskies.
The local farmer’s market is too crowded for my liking, so I aimed for an early start. It opens at 8. I arrived at 8:15. It was already busy.
Finding the fish stand was easy. It wasn’t the obvious smell that showed the way, as you might predict, but the tall refrigerated van seen above the heads of others.
No dusty old farm hats. It’s all undercover. No dirt underfoot. The market has a concrete floor. No damp hessian. The fish is stacked in polystyrene boxes with ice.
No cries of “They’re here” as headlights were spotted in the distance or car horns were heard down the lane. No throng of kids and wives rushing to the front gate to greet those they’ve been missing.
There was a queue. I rested, assured that I was not standing in that forever-unattended spot that prompts a cry of “What about me?”.
Facing the assortment of white and pink flesh, I opted for the easiest option – filleted, cleaned and deboned flathead. I wasn’t sure how much to buy. Would I look silly asking for 100g? Was that going to be two pieces or half a piece?
I took my cue from the red-headed man in the biker gear ahead of me. “Six pieces of flathead” he said. I tried to ask for the same but unpacking the pieces from the paper and plastic was a little alarming.
16 pieces! Contrary to my aim, there is frozen fish in the freezer again.
I also bought a whole snapper to try. Having now cooked and eaten it, may I provide just one piece of advice: Avoid whole fish any larger than a sardine. So inefficient, paying for a head, tail and backbone that I then throw away.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, you actually caught it yourself from some fast-running mountain stream or over the side of a wave-tossed boat miles from shore. In such cases, the experience of catching the fish favourably tips the scales. Take an old hessian bag with you in expectation.
So, on reflection, my expedition to the farmer’s market was much more interesting than opening a fogged-up glass door at the supermarket and fishing the same old packet of frozen whatever off the shelf.
If there is opportunity to turn the mundane into an adventure, I vote we go for it.
Looking on from that day in 2012, a few things didn’t run to plan. One of the aims was to avoid frozen fish; not that it’s bad, but if fresh is handy, why bother wasting the space in the freezer.
Turns out, sometimes frozen is just necessary . . . when the level of tiredness means either microwaving a frozen salmon cake with a bowl of frozen vegetables or getting in the car and driving to the local shops for junk food.
The habit of only buying flathead tails got too comfortable. They were skinned, boned and easy to use. No fuss, but tinged with a little concern. Sustainable fish consumption means eating a variety of species – not just the one. From time to time, I’d try something else . . . but I’m a creature of habit and back I went.
But habits can be busted and sometimes not in a good way. The whole thing went off the rails in 2015. A lot of things went off the rails last year. Not enough sleep.
So, what’s next?
Well, it’s off to the market on Saturday to re-find that adventure.
Can I find another red-head biker or perhaps just resist the flathead instead?