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Greg White Headshot

Something's Fishy

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Sometimes I just show up at Whole Foods with no plan. I walk the aisles and wander around until I get inspired. Like Michelangelo cruising a brothel -- when he finally sees his "David" he grabs a chunk of marble and starts chipping away at the boy's innocence. I too, will create a masterpiece dinner; I just need to find my muse.

It's great to have choices, but the fish case at Whole Foods confuses me. Farm raised sounds so all-American, like the fish were lovingly tended to by a salty old farmer with a kindly wife. Then there's wild caught, which is wildly expensive but evokes a fantasy of an actual fisherman struggling to land that very fish. The high price might be to offset his hazardous duty wage.

If there's one thing I've learned as an American consumer, it's that if it costs more it must be better. Take salmon for instance, wild caught salmon must be better because it costs like, $400 a pound. If I were Rita Hayworth today, I would demand that the Aga Kahn present me with my weight in wild caught anything, instead of rubies and sapphires. I would also stop smoking.

Does it taste better? Yes it does, freakishly so. These fish swim freely in the oceans, eating other wild fish, tires, tossed out baloney sandwiches, and anything else that floats by. Farm raised salmon tastes bland in comparison because they live in a confined space, and their diet is limited to bucketfuls of tasteless cornmeal shoved in by "just some guy." Maybe if it were advertised as hand fed the price could go up.

Last week I cruised the Inside Passage of Alaska. From the huge ship, I cruised the beautiful wilderness like a letch at a gay bar oogling gym bunnies. Trips to the lavish buffet kept me just comatose enough to not ponder that the unspoiled wilderness I was capturing on priceless photos might be getting spoiled by the trail of oil residue the ship left in its wake. But I guess we were "giving back" by feeding the fish.

In Ketchikan, I left the big boat to go on a small boat to go fishing. Four of us slid up an inlet, pausing only to watch a whale surface and dive repeatedly about 20 feet in front of us. Bald eagles soared around us, and the jaded fishing guide explained that eagles are scavengers here and a bit of a nuisance. I imagined him frying one up for dinner later and not going to jail.

Before I dropped my line in the water, I spit on my baited hook, like my Texan grandmother taught me to do for luck. Within minutes, we had caught our limit and were whisked away to a small beach where our guide and a couple of cohorts had set up a small camp. Our fish were cleaned and poached in front of our very eyes on an open fire. It was picturesque and the fish was incredibly delicious. This excursion cost $350 each, so it was the most expensive fish lunch ever. But the control over source aspect was priceless.

You try to be so careful about what you eat, in some cases you even raise your own food, cuddle your own sheep and bake your own pot brownies. You can drink water filtered twice by virgins who think only pure thoughts and you can eat off plates thrown by the hands of newborn babies, but no one can control everything. My parents have stocked the lakes on their ranch with fish of their own choosing -- but they can't help what falls into the lake, like errant ranch hands or space debris.

I am snapped back to the present when the fishmonger at Whole Foods calls my name (I now answer to "Next," "Hey you" and "Sup") and I panic. I quickly ask for two portions of the pricey wild caught salmon. I am dining alone, but am too embarrassed to order fish for one. I may be single, but I am not pitiful.

I checkout, praying my card goes through. Of course I don't have any bags with me. I didn't plan on shopping.