As a frequent traveler, one of the biggest issues I deal with is what I eat. I am a very picky eater; a confirmed carnivore my love of vegetables is weak at best and most notably, I don’t eat any fish or seafood. My fellow Americans may wonder why I phrase it that way, but I’ll get to that in a second. The point of this post is that even after years of writing about this issue I’m still faced with certain difficulties when I travel, and since I’ve heard from many people around the world who are just like me, I thought I’d write yet another post, this one a little more direct, in order to make my life and those like me a little bit easier when we travel the world.
Yes there are people who don’t like fish or seafood
As I have discovered, many people are shocked to the point that their mouth is literally agape when I tell them that I don’t like fish or seafood. I was just on a food tour and when a fellow participant heard me utter those words, her look made me feel like Quasimodo’s little brother. But we are here, we exist and as many emails from readers have shown me, there are a lot of us. The problem is that we are made to feel so bad about ourselves, that few of us come out as anti-pescatarians until we have to. Even then it’s said with an apology and a downward glance. But if I do anything in my life, I hope it’s to make others like me more accepted by the general fish-loving public.
What we mean when we say we don’t like fish or seafood
It means we don’t like it, and this is where I get to that very specific phrasing “fish or seafood.” I was on a trip once and I had sent along my dietary requirement of No Seafood. Now, to an American that usually includes anything that was ever in the water, ever. Possible exceptions would include ducks or if a cow fell into a lake or something. But when translated, seafood in most other languages means fruits de mer, or delicacies like oysters, clams and so on. Fish is actually an entirely different category for them. I discovered this fun fact while on that aforementioned trip when my host proudly came out and said “So I heard you don’t like seafood – that’s fine!” (My heart jumps for joy) “Instead I have a beautiful whitefish for you!” (Heart sinks and I begin Googling the closest McDonald’s.) I learned a lot from that experience, including the importance of very specific language when speaking to people from other cultures but also to always use the phrasing “fish or seafood” when describing my hatred of all things watery.
Yes I’ve tried that one dish you love more than life itself
The next part of the conversation that always happens after I first tell them I hate fish or seafood is, “But have you tried [insert amazing food you love here]? It’s important to say that my dislike of seafood isn’t out of disdain for you or a way to be a contrarian. I’m not trying to be a jerk; I just don’t like fish or seafood. Believe me, I want to. I see how you normal people all look when you bite into a lobster with clarified butter or a massive platter of fish and chips. I want to be like you, I want to enjoy shrimp, Mahi Mahi, oysters, all of it. I want to be there, believe me life would be far simpler. And indeed I have tried both fish and seafood in nearly every form, just in case there’s one form that it turns out I do like. But there isn’t and I don’t. Our tastes and likes in regards to food are largely dictated by genetics, not always by upbringing or cultural norms. I come from proud Mainer stock, people who love lobster more than there own children – and this is actually true. I was brought up around seafood lovers and yet here I am, hating fish and seafood as much as I do licorice or artichokes.
It’s ok that we exist
All of you fish and chip eating, shrimp buffet loving people need to give those of us who hate all of that a break. It is a constant struggle when I travel dealing with my fish issues. It’s not necessarily the hassle involved with finding something I can actually consume, I’ve been able to eat everywhere from remote towns in Taiwan to fishing villages along the coasts of Scandinavia. No, it’s not my ability to find something for dinner that bothers me, it’s the incessant nagging by other, seemingly well-intentioned, people who all but strap me down and force a Filet-O-Fish sandwich down my throat. We all have our little quirks, our idiosyncrasies in life so when you encounter someone who, like me, counts among them a fierce dislike of both fish and seafood do me a favor. Don’t say anything. And pass the Carpaccio.