The Bucket of Fish

I am glad to see Link developing interests which take him outdoors and away from his beloved video games. I am incredibly grateful to his scout leaders who aid him in developing those interests. However the particular bent of those interests resulted in Link coming home from today’s ice fishing trip with a dozen perch in a bucket. He held the bucket up proudly for me to examine. I looked at the fish in the bottom and then one of them twitched.
“They’re not dead.” I yelped.
“Yeah.” said Link. “Perch can live a long time out of the water.”
We placed his bucket of fish outside the back door and then listened while Link regaled us with his adventures. I love listening to Link talk when he is enthusiastic. His typically short sentences lengthen out and his eyes are bright. He’d had a great time and arrived home with a sense of accomplishment. The experience of fishing had been good for him. After he went downstairs to shower, I peeked out the window at the bucket of fish. One of them twitched again.

We are carnivores here at the Tayler house. I do not think it is a bad thing for all of us to confront the fact that eating meat means that an animal had to die for our dinner. Buying prepared meat from a grocery store disconnects us from that. The bucket of fish forced us to face it. Someone was going to have to gut those fish. Looking out the window at the fish, I admit that there was a strong temptation to “forget” about them until they needed to be trashed. However I ccouldn’t think of anything more disrespectful to life than to catch fish, let them die in a bucket, and then throw them out. If Link intended to pursue fishing, then he needed to understand all of the consequences of it. He needed to be willing to prepare and eat the fish he caught. If he was not, then he needed to not go fishing.

The trouble was that not one of us is experienced with gutting fish. They are slippery and injury is a real possibility if proper technique is not used. I couldn’t teach proper technique unless I knew what it was and practiced it enough times. I was going to have to gut some fish first before I could teach Link. There is a reason that my kids have never been fishing, despite the fact that they’ve all said they’d like to go. I’ve chosen to arrange my life so that gutting fish is not something I need to do. But the bucket of fish was already present, right outside the back door. Something had to be done. YouTube demonstrated for me. Howard sharpened a knife. He arranges his life to avoid fish gutting too. I was the one unwilling to waste the bucket of fish, so I was the one who got to wield the knife. The rest was me learning through practical experience. I had Link watch. Next time he’ll need to help.

All of the kids were a little bit fascinated by this process. They were interested in the fish and the ickiness of the guts. On some level I was too. There were also several levels on which I was disturbed by the entire thing. It was the same set of feelings I had years ago when we dissected frogs in Biology class. I worried that the process might prove traumatic to one of the kids. I fended off my own disturbance and their potential trauma by keeping up a running conversation about fish, biology, respecting life, and what on earth is that weird thing that just fell into the sink. Guts are very strange.

Cooking the fish was also new territory. We don’t cook fish often, particularly not small fresh water fish with tiny bones. The result was reasonably good, but picking out all the tiny bones was a fiddly process. Link liked eating the fish. This means he will not starve to death when his scout troop goes on a multi-day fishing campout this summer.

So I learned something new today. And then I showered a lot.