If I’ve ever puzzled or offended you by the choking-back-a-laugh noise I usually make whenever someone mentions eating tilapia, please let me explain. I am generally a pretty logical person, but tilapia is one thing for which logic cannot prevail for me. I know that the tilapia sold at the warehouse store and supermarket, and served at fine restaurants (insert that choking noise here), is farm-raised. I know that its (reportedly) mild flavor is a perfect backdrop for some creative and sophisticated sauces. I also know that despite my general love of seafood, I will never eat tilapia (choking noise again).
When I was growing up in Honolulu, no one I know would ever have thought about eating tilapia. Tilapia lived in dirty canals like the Ala Moana Canals and Ala Wai Canal. They supposedly eat algae, but being bottom-feeders, that means they also sucked up the other disgusting stuff at the bottom of the canal. If you fished for tilapia, it was solely for fun, and you would throw them back in the filthy water from whence they came. In other words, not something that anyone would willingly put in their mouth.
I don’t remember exactly when tilapia made the move from the canals to the fish farms, but I do remember the great amount of amusement it gave me every time I heard of some upscale restaurant serving tilapia. The fancier the restaurant, the bigger the laugh for me, as I was of course picturing fancy schmancy people catching canal tilapia.
The height of my illogical amusement came when I saw an article in the Norridge/Harwood Heights local newspaper about an aquaculture project at my husband’s high school. Just a few miles from where we live now, the students there were raising… yes, you guessed it… tilapia! I got way too much pleasure at asking him whether he was disappointed that he had never been able to participate in a tilapia farming project during his years there.
So, yes. I know it’s totally illogical. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat tilapia, unless someone tricks me into trying it. Umm. Do not get any ideas, please and thank you. And thank you for ignoring that little choking noise I make when you mention how tasty your tilapia was at lunch!