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20140202 Flesh of my labors

I get biweekly seafood drops from Siren Fish Company, a “SeaSA” serving the California Bay Area and specializing in local, sustainably acquired seafood. I’m very happy with the quality of the catches, and the variety challenges me to experiment with healthy recipes and preparation methods.

Herring was on last week’s menu. I’m not typically one for smaller, fishier fish, though I know these are precisely the ones that are packed with the richest omegas. I’m happy to load up the Bows on sardines and mackerel. However, I wasn’t about to hand $20 worth of fresh Pacific herring over to the dogs just because I’d never really given the stuff a chance.

So I decided to get down and dirty with a Swedish pickled herring recipe. First, I had to gut and filet ten whole herrings. I’d never filleted a fish before, and I didn’t even have the proper knife. Suffice to say, I made a bloody, wasteful mess of those beautiful silver bodies. Well fine, I thought, the dogs will get a feast after all.

Except that neither Bow would touch the scraps. Not even Bowpi, who usually delights in starting each whole raw fish meal by crunching up the head. Bowdu, who had been sitting at attention the whole time I was slicing away in the kitchen, spit out the head I popped into his mouth, barely licked a pile of guts, and wouldn’t even touch one of the fleshier spine chunks that I dropped at his feet!

In a desperate attempt to keep the pile from going straight to discard, I boiled the massacred carcasses into a fetid vat of mush. The Bows snorted into their proffered bowls of fleshbonegut paste, and would not deign to sample my creation. I rehydrated their Honest Kitchen with the fish stock that night, and Bowpi threw up the morning after. The remaining stock reeked so heavily, I had a hard time thinking up any use for it. In the end, that whole pot got dumped.

At least I can say that my pickled products were quite tasty for a first attempt, so I feel like my efforts ultimately paid off. My filleting technique needs work and the pickling juice can be tweaked, but I did all right for a first foray into totally foreign culinary territory.

A couple days later, we received a gift of three fresh herring that a friend had purchased for his cats. It was a first, rather ambitious attempt at raw feeding for J., and his cats weren’t into it. J. has witnessed the whole fish feeding frenzy at the House of Two Bows before, so he figured his cats were just weird and we could make use of the rejected herrings.

And we did indeed, the very next night. The Bows were given one and a half fish each — Bowdu getting the larger share of the extra chopped up fish, of course.

But Bowdu wouldn’t finish his portion. Usually he’s the first to plow through his meal, so during feeding times, he’s restricted from Bowpi so he can’t run her off her meal after he’s done. This time, however, she reached the finish line first, and trotted back inside while Bowdu stayed outdoors, hunkered over his headless herring.

I thought this odd, until Bowpi started horking up her herring about 15 minutes later. Somehow, the fish had managed to turn a deep, olive green in the short time it churned about her stomach. The entire meal came up in two piles that practically seethed upon splashdown. I held her skinny, convulsing body as I aimed her head towards an area of the floor that I could easily clean up. When her stomach was finally emptied, Bowpi smacked her lips, whimpered a little, and scampered off to the bedroom, where she curled up on the blanket and slept off her nausea for the rest of the evening.

When I finished cleaning up Bowpi’s vomit, I went out back to check on Bowdu. I found him in the middle of the yard, re-consuming a pile of his own fresh vomit. That’s his thing; Bowpi is at least sensible enough to leave hers alone. While he busied himself with his own disgustingness, I quietly removed the still-uneaten remaining herring. It did not look or smell abnormal to me, but obviously, it wasn’t right. I bet the cats knew what was up, whereas the Bows utterly lack their feline discretion.

This was even more apparent when Bowdu vomited again about twenty minutes later, when I’d drawn him back inside the kitchen… where he then wolfed down his own RE-regurgitated pile of mush before I had a chance to grab the cleaning supplies.

Dogs, man. They are what they are because they’re so capable of eating anything.

He who survives knows not the meaning of gross.