Monday, March 17, 2008

The Supermarket Chronicles - Part 2 -

Here in this southern city in Japan, spring comes rather suddenly. It seems like yesterday when I posted about my “high-tech” underwear, but now-- in the past couple of days -- it has been as warm as late April. Yep, NO MORE HIGH-TECH UNDERWEAR! :D

It’s been a little more than a month since I started working at this supermarket, and I guess I’m gradually getting used to the work there. Yep, the “work” there, but not necessarily the “people” there. ;) Actually there was some “personnel change” there, and I have a lot to tell you about that, but I’ll post about it some other time.

Anyway, so far my main task there has been packing and labeling seafood. But I knew from the beginning that they were going to teach me how to fillet different kinds of fish. It is partly because some fish are big and need to be properly cut before being packed and displayed on the shelves, but also because the fish section of this supermarket is more like a good-old fish store.

At many supermarkets here in Kochi, the seafood section is no different from other sections in the store; you just silently take packed products from the shelf and go to the cash register. Usually they have filleted fish only on display so that customers won't need help. But the seafood sections of some supermarkets are more “interactive” – you can talk to the staff in the small kitchen behind the showcase. You can take a packed whole fish -- relatively small ones-- from the showcase and ask the staff, “Hey, can you fillet this?” or “Can you descale and gut this fish? I want to simmer it.” It’s something unique about fish section, I think … You know, in other sections of the supermarket, customers may ask questions about the products, but they won’t ask something like, “Hey, can you peel these potatoes for me?” or “Can you seed these lemons so that I can squeeze the juice out of them easily?” Right? ;)

About two weeks ago, my boss taught me how to cut and slice octopuses. It was the easiest one … maybe it was Preparing Fish 101. Now, this time it was PF 102: preparing small tai (sea bream) for simmering or grilling. What I have learned was how to remove scales, gills and guts from small sea breams so that they can be grilled like this or simmered like this. My boss gave me five small ones left from the previous day and told me to practice on them.

Now, big sea breams are very expensive fish which are used for various celebrations, and preparing them for celebration feasts require real professional skills because their bones are extremely tough and some have poison in their fins. It would be quite a while before I start practicing on such big ones, but for now I’m happy with being able to prepare these small ones.

After the work that day, I bought two small sea breams and reviewed, in my kitchen, what I learned. I took these photos then. Yes, I'm working on a new project, too. I want to become able to take beautiful photos of fish and other seafood -- not just the fish/seafood dishes, but including fresh fish and seafood themselves. I think sweets are very photogenic, and so are some vegetables. But fish and seafood can look quite plain or even grotesque sometimes, so for me it's harder to take good-looking photos of them. Now I'm going to practice and experiment this and that in order to capture the beauty of those friends from the ocean. It must be an enjoyable challenge.
Wish me luck.



Anonymous said...

Man, I miss the fish section of supermarkets...we really don't have anything quite like that in the US.

But gah....chop off its head! It's eyes are staring RIGHT AT ME O_O

Anonymous said...

My grandfather is the king of filleting and preparing fish and seafood where I live, I guess it is his fisherman background. But sadly, it doesn't run in the family just yet. But the pictures look appetizing already!

Anonymous said...

Cant wait to see more of your fish pictures. The one you have is already making me drool..looks so fresh and the scales are shimmering. We are very deprived of good seafood where I live in Canada and belive me, fresh seafood is more tmepting than desserts pictures :)

Marcela said...

I wish you luck, but I trully think you're already doing it great!
It's great to have the opportunity to learn new things. Good luck at work too..

K and S said...

I hope you succeed at your new project!

Rei said...

Glad to hear work is going well! I had to laugh about your comment about co-workers...isn't that the way it always is? The ones I like drive me crazy and the ones I like best drive me craziest of all! So the ones I like less well...well!

Learning new technique for cutting fish sounds like fun and quite a challenge. Your boss sounds like a good teacher, giving you fish to practice on. Of course the faster you learn the sooner you'll be a
"skilled" worker. I have full confidence in this new endeavor of yours!

I must have missed your photo of the whole fish. I agree, photos of fresh seafood are beautiful and as mouthwatering as other foods. Btw you captured the sea bream's irridescent colorful skin nicely. I think this challenge will come easier than slicing fish!

Anonymous said...

You're doing well to think that it's the first attempt! Keep it up. =)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I'm happy to hear that things are going well for you!

Interesting project and great pictures!



Charlotte-Ann Photography said...

I think you're very brave! Blame it on my non-fish eating up bringing, but the thought of cutting up fish everyday would freak me out! ;) But, I do look forward to seeing more post/pictures of seafood; I know that you will do well! Your photos always inspire me. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Good luck..! i look forward to seeing those fish pictures.. ;)

obachan said...

Hahaha… Looks like many people feel the same way about fish eyes. I’ll try not to include that part of fish in my photos as much as possible.

Oh, I’d like to be his apprentice! :D

Uh… this fish is already descaled. What’s shimmering is her (his?) skin under the scales.
Here we tend to think that Canadian people must be enjoying abundant seafood especially salmon everywhere in Canada, but I guess it’s just a stereotype.

Thanks. I have a book about kaiseki (Japanese traditional course meal), and it has beautiful photos of sliced raw fish. I want to be able to take shots like them.

K & S

To me taking great shots of fish seems harder than slicing fish. They always look much more beautiful than my photos. But I’ll keep on trying.

Anonymous commenter
Thanks! :D

Well, not everything is going well, to tell you the truth, bur at least I’m enjoying the tasks I do.

My bento diet
I can imagine how you feel about cutting up fish. But I’ll try not to show the grotesque part of fish in my photos, so don’t worry.

Mama bok
Thanks. Hope you enjoy my photos.

Anonymous said...

Your site is always such a respite when I'm whizzing through all the food sites! I envy you the opportunity to practice your fish filleting and photography -- at least I'll be able to live vicariously through you. Happy slicing and snapping! (The fish carpaccio looks wonderful, sorry it didn't taste to match.)