Children &The Love Of Fish

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Good Evening everyone.

After doing four sessions of Farm To Fork, a question has been floating round my mind all day.

At what stage does our fascination with fish cease to be?

With every group of fantastic school children I’ve taught over the past week and a half there has been a pattern. There has been at least one student who has been adamant they won’t touch fish, at least one student fascinated and one student who is glued to my side watching me fillet fish. But it’s the student who is adamant they won’t touch fish who fascinates me.

The attached photo is indeed me, and at that age HATED fish. I remember dreading the Salmon and mash potato for tea and pushing the fish round the plate making it look like I’d eaten at least half of it.

“Fish should be left swimming in the sea!!” Was my motto and I’d never go near a fish counter. So, if my 33 year old self was to go back in time and tell my 6 year old self that my dream job would be being a trained fishmonger and I’d love eating fish such as Monkfish and seabass I’d be in fits of giggles.

Today in the little group of students, there was one little girl who was positive she didn’t want to hold the fish I was teaching them about  (salmon, mussels, oysters etc) All the other children were fascinated by them, the feel of them, the temperature of the fish. By the time I’d done all my little spiel on where fish comes from etc, it was then time for me to show them how I fillet a whole fish.

I fully expected the little girl to be at the back of the group, after all even most adults are squeamish when it comes to preparing fish, let alone children who don’t even like fish! The little girl, however, edged closer to my counter and the poor mackerel ready for the chop.

I first took his head off to a chorus of children shouting “Ewwww, awww Miss that’s gross!!” Followed by giggles. I kept an eye on the little girl in case she disappeared or went a shade of green. But she was fascinated, asking me all sorts of questions about his head and internal organs. I asked if anyone wanted to hold his head, and this brave little girl was one of the first to put her hand up. Then I carried on filleting, showing them the back bone and vertebrae and how flexible they are through water. Then, reluctantly, the session was over and they all moved on to another department.

It always makes me smile when I hear a child say “I’m going to look at the fish!” And many a time I’ve done a little impromptu session with fascinated children, especially with Flatfish and how their eyes move with their body and the colours.

Then I hear older children, teenagers saying “Oh they’re disgusting! Oh I don’t know how you can eat fish!” In fact, the same things I used to say. Or I hear parents or guardians telling the children to come away from the fish.

I think a lot of it is due to education. If children are taught about fish, able to learn where it comes from, are allowed to handle it, even see how it’s prepared, then maybe the knowledge will stay with them, and then they want to learn more.

It is the same with adults. Customers who ask me about a type of fish, then try it will come back and say how nice it is, or if they weren’t keen on it, it’s still inspired them to try something different.

That always makes me feel a little proud inside. My dream job when I was a little girl was to be a primary school teacher. Maybe part of the reason I love doing the Farm To Fork sessions with children is that I get to be both a teacher and fishmonger.

I can’t ask for anything better than that can I?

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