Salmon is a fish that almost isn’t. I’m not talking about sustainability here – though sustainability is an issue with salmon as it is with every thing else on this planet (my patience for trying to pin down sustainability into a nice neat package included) I’m talking about being a fish. A Fish, is what I mean.
Salmon is almost not a Fish. It is the fish that any chef knows can be sold to the guest who does not like Fish. Why? Because it is salmon.
The flavor is one reason – the rich flavor of salmon lacks a deep ‘fishiness’ as a taste component. The lack of too many little bones is another reason. There is always someone who will look at a menu then ask if you have a fish they can have (grilled, of course – this type person always wants their fish grilled and usually without a touch of butter or oil for this thing fat is a dreaded and horrifying thing much to be avoided) . . . a fish they can have which does not have bones.
Bones, particularly in fish, make a food very real. Very real.
The other great thing about salmon for people who want a fish that is not a fish is that it is pink. Pink denotes a close-ness to meat, something warm and mammalian not this cold-blooded thing of the deep seas with its dark glassy eyes (which of course they do not want to see in general for fishes eyes are scary things). Salmon is often found as fillets or in cute little steak cuts, which is comforting to the non-real-fish eater who thinks they should be eating fish, without fat, without bones, grilled, without eyes, cut into a neat little shape almost demoralized into a democratic blankness.
This is funny, because salmon is often not naturally pink. Pink, like pretty little ribboned bows in little girls’ braids and curls, pink like the little hearts we draw to match our initials together, pink like kissing pouty lips, pink like the Victoria’s Secret brand ‘Pink’ printed on everyones’ behind who buys those things called sweatpants which used to be something thought of as dull old exercise clothes but which now are designed to allow the top part of the bejewelled thong to hang out enticingly above the waistband which is now a below-the-hipbone band.
Salmon is often a white color, naturally – just like many other fish. It is dyed to be a salmon color. Just like Madonna is not really blonde, salmon is not really pink.
The guys who pulled in that big catch from Puget Sound sometime around the turn of the century (that is, around the beginning of the century that started with a 19) probably didn’t think of all this stuff as they stood in the galley happy to be able to rake all that big fish into a nice pile so that the big block of ice in the background of the photo could be chipped away at and thrown over it to hopefully keep these lunkers cold enough to stay fresh for a while, till they could be delivered to wherever the railroad would take them.
Salmon. It’s Spring, and it is time for salmon!