Friday, October 28, 2005

Aji (鯵): In Which I Provide Illumination on Our Recently Begun Predatory Relationship with Mackerel

Our friend Mr. Niioka teaches Yuko the way of the deep fried mackerel. He was recently featured in another article as the man who butchered the giant tuna.

Last night Yuko and I went fishing for baby mackerel with Mr. Niioka. Considering the fact that I grew up in a fishing town called Mackerel Inlet (Ajigasawa) it’s a little surprising that I had never fished for mackerel before. In fact, if I were to use all my fingers and toes, I would probably be able to count the number of times I have gone fishing in my life. I have often read of fishing as being a relaxing sport involving incredibly long waits for anything to happen. However, each time we dipped our fishing lines armed with multiple hooks into the dirty Hebiura Harbour, within seconds we would have one or two baby mackerel tugging away at them. It got to the point where I would just let them tug away until I had three or four of them hooked simultaneously. The small ones were about three inches long, and the longest was probably about five. In all we must have brought home about sixty of the things. Unfortunately, I don’t have any fishing pictures for the same reason that I didn’t get pictures of us butchering squid at Shimofuro Elementary School a couple of months ago—slime.

Once we got home, Yuko got her hands slimy again while I took pictures. Under Mr. Niioka’s tutelage she learned that gutting the smaller fish was a cinch—just rip their heads off and pull out the attached innards (most people just eat them whole when they are that small, but Mr. Niioka kindly accommodated my piscine prejudices). After this smelly task was completed, they breaded and deep fried the little fishies so that they turned out something like popcorn shrimp, and these we added to our dinner.