29th November fulfilled 2 dreams for me. When I was in high school, I had always planned on being a teacher, the plan was either a primary school teacher or high school English teacher. Becoming a fishmonger was what I call “being in the wrong place at the right time.” So, being asked to teach nearly 60 students about different types of fish, sustainability and how to fillet a fish fulfilled my 2 dreams. Every single student I taught had never handled a fish and well over 3/4 had never eaten fish. What has gone wrong?
When my sister and I were small, our parents worked hard all day, with long hours, but every night we would come home from school and they would have cooked us our evening meal. It was very rare we would have a take away and always felt like a treat going to a fast food restaurant. Now, 30 years later, fast food, ready meals and take aways seem to be part of the staple diet. The danger there is losing an education in food. When does an education in food start, and who’s responsibility is it?
I learnt cooking with my parents. I’ll admit here and now, however, I am a shocking cook, I could burn water, but my mum and dad made sure I knew the basics. At my high school, we had the most fantastic kitchen set up, although I could still burn water, we did however learn about fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, proteins, dairy, good and bad fats. Is there still an emphasis on teaching basics of food, including fish, or is fish seen as too expensive a commodity to use within education?
As the young people filed in to the class room, I received the reaction I expected, and secretly wanted. They either had their hands over their noses, nervous giggling or a resounding chorus of “ugggh!” I could relate to that, and work with it. I admitted to the class that I had felt the same way about fish when I was their age. Whether it was because we could now both relate to each other, or because they were fascinated with fish in front of them, they were fantastic to teach. Within minutes, they were asking questions, they were watching and I had willing volunteers preparing Whole Squid and filleting Plaice in front of their classmates. Simon, the chef I was working with, then cooked some calamari and plaice goujons, they all tried some. For the first time they had all eaten fresh fish. So, is it important?
I had been asked by The Food Teachers Centre to do the event with them. I was rather shocked and dismayed that they had had their funding cut. The service that they provided within schools to help teach children and young people about cooking, food, nutrition and healthy eating, was cut. Seeing the young people in front of me enjoying finding out about fish and being hands on, made me wonder why on earth funding for services like this would be cut and seen as non essential.
Is It Worth Teaching Young People About Fish And Seafood?
To be honest that really shouldn’t be a question. To put it simply, the future generations are our next customers, our fishmongers, chefs, food specialists, technicians, nutritionists and processors. They need to be taught about fish and seafood, not just because they should be able to make healthy choices now and in their growing futures, but also so they know there could be possible career paths open to them.
What Can Be Done To Help?
I felt extremely honoured to be asked to help launch the Fish Hero event in schools. Its an ideal time to teach and learn about fish and seafood. The young people sat and listened, they asked questions. I heard 2 of the girls talking about what a baby squid is called. They dared each other to ask me, and after I asked them what they thought it should be called, they loved it. I loved it when they said they thought it should be squidlet, rather than chick. They all learned how to fillet a mackerel, and following Simon’s fantastic cookery demo, they made a delicious recipe. 2 of the boys were left handed, and stood looking at the fish. “Miss, we can’t do it!” I went over to them, smiling that I’d been called Miss. “What can’t you do?” “We can’t fillet the fish, we are left handed.” After gentle persuasion and reassurance, they both filleted the fish extremely well. They gave each other a high 5, smiling at the fillets that they said couldn’t do.
If every fishmonger all over the country could help amazing initiatives such as the Food Teachers Centre, you would be helping young people to achieve something. Maybe they could find that they can do something that they never thought possible. Maybe they find an interest in fish and seafood that they never had before. What do we get back in return? We then have generations of young people, growing up finding a love or interest for fish, seafood and the great bounty we have in our waters.
@FoodTCentre please follow them on Twitter and get in touch if you can help them.
@tarbetts the fish was kindly sponsored by Yorkshires largest and best independent fishmongers- who I happen to work for in my day job
@Girlyfishmonger my twitter handle if you’d like to follow along in all things fishy.