April 6, 2012

fish cheeks

Guess what? I remembered what I wanted to say about fish cheeks.

Did you even know fish had cheeks? I'd never even thought about whether fish had cheeks or not (nor did I care) until the spring of 1982. That's when I discovered fish:
had cheeks
those cheeks are cute
and tender
and romantic
and they can talk. Yes, fish cheeks can talk. You didn't know that? They say a whole lot if you'll but look and listen to them.

The guy I married is a quiet guy. His words are few and getting to know him was a challenge. I think that's why he let his fish cheeks do a lot of the talking for him. They told me things about him he would never have told me himself.

The spring of 1982 found us living in the boonies of Wisconsin, at a small private school that sat nestled on a large lake that was, you guessed it, full of fish. And, the guy I married loves fishing. As a matter of fact, if he could make a living at it, and support a family by it, he'd fish day and night to bring home the bacon. (Or cheeks, if you will.)

So anyway. The school was very picky about the meals served and who prepared them, and who was allowed in the kitchen and when. The only time they relaxed about all that was on Saturday mornings. We were allowed to prepare our own breakfasts then.

Every Saturday morning, while the rest of us were sleeping in, my not-yet husband was out there reeling in...blue gill? I can't remember what kind of fish they were....

Anyhoo, every Saturday morning he'd catch a fish, fry it with an egg, and toast a piece of toast. He wouldn't eat that breakfast though. He'd watch for me and when I walked into the dining room he'd be standing there, smiling, that plate of food warm and ready, waiting for me. He'd motion me to a table, put the plate in front of me, and we'd sit together while I ate.

The first time Mike made breakfast for me I discovered fish had cheeks. I sat down, starving, and looked at my plate. There was the egg, the toast, and the fish. But there also, off by themselves, in a little spot all their own on the plate, sat two tiny, round pieces of fish.

"Um Mike? What are those?" I pointed.

"Those are the fish's cheeks. They are the tastiest part of the fish!" he grinned.

I picked up my fork and stabbed a little cheek with one prong. I put it in my mouth and smiled.

"Oh, you're right. That is amazing!" I couldn't taste the difference between the cheek or any other part of the fish but there was something different about that small piece of meat. It talked to me.

It told me: here is a guy who wants to serve. He is thoughtful, caring, and patient. (You have to be patient to cut around a tiny fish cheek and lift it from the fish's face. You have to be gentle with it so you don't demolish it while you're cutting and lifting and frying it.) It told me this guy thinks about others, not just himself. It told me he had a sense of humor but he knew where to draw the line. (He never once served a fish with the head still attached to its body. He knew I couldn't eat anything that sat there watching me while I ingested it.)

Those two little cheeks were the best part of the fish-they said so much even though they (in all honesty) never said a word.

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