When you move to a foreign country, your scope of awareness changes rapidly.
Meaning, it goes from general to specific. Meaning, that when I first came to Austria and fought the ensuing culture shock, in order to cope, I said things to myself like “well, this is the way the Europeans are.” Then I met many different Europeans and revised that to “this is the way the Austrians are.”
After awhile, I realized that mainly it’s the Viennese people who are assholes and that a lot of the things I thought were fucked up about the Austrians were just fucked up about my wife’s family.
No offense meant or anything. My family has just as many fucked up things. They are just different fucked up things.
We do not eat fish soup.
This was the appetizer at the first Christmas at the in-laws’. And for the next fourteen Christmases.
It was what they’d always done.
They put this bowl of stuff in front of me. It looked like egg drop soup. I asked what it was.
“Just eat it,” they said.
So I ate it. They laughed.
“What is it?” I asked.
“What do you think?” they asked.
“What is it?” I asked again.
“Eat more,” they said.
When it was done, they humored me.
“It’s fish soup,” they said.
“No,” my future father-in-law corrected. “It is fish gut soup.”
I have eaten lots and lots of fish. I have eaten it raw, broiled, fried, blackened, and medium rare. I like fish.
I do not, however, eat fish guts. My father is a fisherman, or used to be, and I used to be, too. Little secret knowledge of fishing, for those of you who have never been?
You throw the guts away.
Sometimes they have these cleaning areas. Usually there is a counter. A lot of times there is a garbage can full of stinking, rotting fish guts whirling with flies. Sometimes you just throw the guts on the ground, and they’re picked up by scavengers: sea birds, cats, mice.
You do not eat that shit.
I was a little pissed.
“No, wait,” said my future father-in-law. “It is not the guts. It is the–balls? The eggs?”
See what I mean about going from general to specific? Now I had not just eaten fish guts, I had actually eaten testicles. And caviar. OK, I conceded to myself, caviar is better than guts. Testicles…well, maybe I could get used to that. If I had to.
Then he told me that the fish recently in possession of said testicles and eggs was in reality a carp. A giant goldfish. A bottom feeder.
Fucking fish guts. Now I eat cheese soup when I go there – it’s awesome, it’s made of about five different cheeses and has more calories than pemmican – or I eat no soup at all.
A man’s gotta have his standards.
Wag the Dad
P.S. Am I the only one who thinks that Dr. Suess should have written a book entitled “Fish Soup”?
P.P.S. Whilst researching this article, and trying to discover whether testicles can be referred to as sweetmeats or sweetbreads, I came across this: Cooking With Testicles. Enjoy!
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