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Judy Spooner: Liver not the only fishy food

I sat alone at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours staring at the liver on my plate. During all the previous liver meals, my mother allowed me to eat only the onions and bacon that came with it. I got a free pass on the liver until this one night, when I was 7 years old. Either I ate the liver or I would sit at the table for eternity, she said.

Eventually, I doused it with ketchup and choked it down.

As an adult, I would starve to death before I would eat liver again.

Acutely aware of my liver experience, I never forced our daughters to eat anything. I put all the food on the table at once, including dessert, and let them choose.

Daughter Laura, along with husband Gary, loves to eat liver. As a family value, we will also try unfamiliar foods.

If you ban certain foods at home, kids will seek them out at the first opportunity. My mother, for example, refused to put chocolate frosting on brownies. For sure, a frosted brownie was the first thing I was attracted to at our neighborhood bakery.

So, no matter how hard you try, your kids will have food preferences and lists of foods they refuse to eat.

Only in California, where Margie lived for a time with son-in-law Eric, a West Coast native, would there be avocado milk shakes. The color was definitely off-putting, she said. I won't try to duplicate her description of the color of fig milkshakes. "You might as well hand me a glass of mustard to drink," she said.

While Margie joins her father in eating smoked oysters and sardines during the Christmas holidays, she draws the line when it comes to eating pickled herring, which is "fish Jell-O with onions," she said.

I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood so I learned to make lox, which is salmon cured with equal amounts of sugar and salt. Gary and I like it, but Margie has it on her "bad idea fish list."

"It's fish candy," she said. "I never thought I would use the words candy and fish in the same sentence."

Calamari is also on her bad idea fish list.

It's only called calamari and deep fried to disguise the fact that it's squid, according to Margie. It tastes rubbery and can be used to tie your hair back, she said.

When the girls were young, we traveled to Mississippi to see their grandparents. As a special family treat, my parents took us up to a "catfish camp."

Diners chose live catfish from a tank. The selected fish were deep fried and brought to our table. All the food, including hush puppies, was served family style.

Laura was horrified that someone had cooked her fish. She thought she was going to take the fish home as a pet.

"The first time I ate catfish was the last time I ate catfish," Margie said.

In "The World According to Margie, Volume I," you will find the following advice: "When it comes to disliking food, forget about liver, it's all about the fish."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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