FILLET A WHOLE FISH!
This is an easy challenge, but it has a purpose. My hope is that by starting with a whole animal, you can develop a higher level of respect for the source of your food. It is easy to throw away a few bites of fish when you view it as a manufactured product that comes to the table having never had an identity. It is much tougher when you view that fish as an animal that died solely for your dinner. According to the USDA, food waste is a real problem in the United States, with as much as 40% of all meat and produce ending up in the landfill.
Americans work hard to separate the concept of the animal from the food item. More than any other nation, we prefer pre-packaged cuts of meat. Our favorite proteins are the boneless, skinless chicken breast and ground beef. We purchase fewer whole animals and we shy away from animals that don’t come in convenient cutlet form. Europeans love to eat rabbits. Good luck finding a rabbit in a regular grocery store in the US. The intentional detachment may make you feel better, but it decreases your empathy for the animals.
I was raised to respect the animals that die for my meals and I try to raise my kids the same way. I let them face the animals. I want them to give thanks to each one and maybe even feel a bit of sorry for its loss. We cook whole chickens more often than chicken breasts. I buy whole fish whenever possible. I’ve butchered larger animals with the kids too. With whole animals, I can give them a cooking lesson and a biology lesson at the same time. I hope it makes them uncomfortable with wasting food, and I hope they learn that the best way to avoid wasting meat is to cook less of it.
Most people will never butcher their own cow, but a fish is a very accessible way to have a similar experience. You can purchase a fish small enough to feed one person. You can fillet that fish with just one knife and few, if any other tools. You can use my tutorial HERE or get some instruction from your seafood dealer. If you have never filleted a fish before, chances are you will do a terrible job on it, but it will most certainly still be edible. It is a skill worth learning and you will get better with practice. Plus, if the apocalypse ever comes, you’ll be able to turn nature into dinner all by yourself.
So, pick an easy fish like a striped bass or a rockfish and grab your sharpest, thinnest knife. Break it down into boneless fillets. You can choose to leave the skin on or remove it. Bonus points if you use more of the fish than just the fillets. You can trim off the gills and dispose of the guts and then boil the bones down for a nice fish stock. Up to 10% of the edible meat on a fish goes in the trash with the bones. If you make it into a stock, you get much of that back. You could make a fish head soup if you want to get really adventurous. Whatever you do, get comfortable with your fish as a fish and if you choose to do it again, pay attention to the differences between species. Fish are really an interesting and diverse group of animals.