Like most people, I’m addicted to convenience.  I want to walk into a store, grab the items I need as quickly as possible, talk to as few humans as possible, and go home.  I rarely ask for anything special.  In fact, I rarely have conversations with shopkeepers at all.  Why?  I think it is because I’ve been taught that my time is valuable and I have to use it efficiently.  I treat my shopping as an item on my to do list that should be checked off with competent speed.  Whenever I take the time to engage in conversations with the people in these businesses, I almost always find it to be a pleasant experience.  We should all try to do it more.

The seafood dealer is a great place to start because there is so much that you ought to know.  There are hundreds of types of fish that are commonly available in most regions.  It would be tough for the home cook to know them all.  By talking to your seafood dealer, you can learn general information about the species of fish, detailed information about the origin of the fish, the method of capture, and the date it was received.  Seafood dealers can also be a great source of guidance on how to cook fish.  So, open the lines of communication and establish a relationship with your fishmonger.  Here are three good reasons to do it.

1.      You’ll get better fish – By asking a few key questions, you can choose the best fish in the store.  To accomplish this, ask how fresh the fish is, or ask what customers are saying about specific batches of fish.  If your seafood market has wild caught sockeye salmon next to farmed Norwegian salmon, how do you know which one to get?  If you can articulate your preferences clearly, the dealer can guide you through this decision so that you end up with a product that you will like.  Another way you get better fish by asking questions is that you establish a relationship with your seafood dealer.  Then you can comfortably ask for more specific cuts of fish.  If they know you as a regular consumer that asks educated questions, they are likely to treat you better.  They may help you choose the highest yield fillet in the case or they may alert you when something really interesting has come in.

2.      You can be a more responsible consumer – Knowing the country of origin is step one.  Your seafood dealer is required to tell you this information if you ask.  Knowing the method of production is the other detail that may be necessary to figure out if your seafood choice is sustainable.  If you have these two bits of information, you can use www.seafoodwatch.org to determine if you are making a good choice.  This will help you avoid buying overfished species or supporting environmentally irresponsible practices.

3.      You can cook your fish better at home – Seafood dealers are often extremely knowledgeable when it comes to cooking.  You can get some great ideas from these people.  I’ve learned a lot from my fish dealers over the years.  If you want to try a new type of fish, they can get you started in the right direction.  Many seafood dealers are very passionate about seafood cooking.  All you have to do is get them talking.

The knowledge is there for the taking and most dealers are happy to share it.  Start today and it will pay immediate dividends.  Over time, as you develop the relationship, the benefits will become even greater.