Friday, August 8, 2008

Striped Bass-Part I

Caitlin Klinger
August 8, 2008
Location: Food Laboratory at Boston University

We were lucky enough to obtain a Striped Bass for multiple varieties of examination. I'm sure much of this will echo what Erald has said, but I'll continue anyway. The fish weighed approximately 17 pounds and appears to be about three feet in length by visual examination alone. One thing that surprised me was how hard the scales were (at least when dry-I've never felt one underwater), which I suppose acts as a form of protection for the animal. This was what the 17-lb Striped Bass looked like before Bruce got his hands on...I mean, dissected it.
Bruce taught us how to cut the fillet off of a fish. In order to do so, he made two long cuts lengthwise down the fish, one one each side of the dorsal fin. Bruce let any willing volunteers try their hand at cutting the fish.

Students getting their chance to cut the fillet:

Bruce explained to us that the darker meat had a greater concentration of fat than the lighter meat. It is in the darker meat that toxins such as PAHs and PCBs can accumulate due to the amount of fat (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and Polychlorinated biphenls for anyone who wants to know more). I have not posted any pictures of this for those viewers who have sensitive stomachs, but after the fillets were cut, Bruce proceeded to the internal organs. I was surprised to see that the majority of the fish's vital organs were located in the front third of it's body. This makes sense because the fish's rear half needs to be streamlined for swimming (and also part of why the head gets left behind in cooking), it's simply something to which I had never given much thought.

We examined the fish's stomach to see if any of its stomach contents were still remaining. Unfortunately for anyone wanting to know exactly what this specimen was eating, we found the stomach to be completely empty. Bruce explained that this could be explained by a natural defense mechanism that Striped Bass often employ. If the bass feels it is in danger of becoming a meal, it throws up its food in the hope that the predator will take the free meal instead of the one that requires some effort. A good strategy for the bass, but not as exciting for us.

After examining some of the fish's other organs, we turned our attention to a special section of belly meat that Bruce had set aside just after cutting the fillets. These pieces had the honor of becoming sashimi right there and then in the Food Laboratory. The remaining class members enjoyed the combination soy sauce, wasabi and ginger (or if you're like me and are intolerant of hot foods, just soy sauce with floating bits of wasabi) and the result was truly delicious. I cannot think of a more unique, interesting and enjoyable way to wrap up what was a sincerely memorable and possibly concentration-changing experience for me. Thanks everyone!

I leave you with members of the class eating sashimi:

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