I’m Going to Have to Learn to Spell Pescetarian

Because I am one. A Pescetarian that is. Thirty some years of vegetarianism (including a two year stint of veganism that was ended with some freshly made garlic goat cheese) ended a few years ago actually. I woke up one Friday and my menopausal body cried out for fish oil. I wanted it. I knew the health benefits. I also had an identity to maintain. I was a vegetarian. But by the end of the day I was buying fish oil as I had no really good reason to say no to a need that I would describe as a physical demand. I tried it. I liked it. I felt and heard the cells of my body say “YES!! Thank you!!”

And then the urge expanded. Last year I visited Sweden, for a wonderful family reunion. It was a renewal of my heritage (father’s side) and a time to be open to the adventure of meeting new family, going new places, traveling far away with my sweetheart for the first time.

And I made a plan to honor that Swedish half of me by eating some Swedish fish.
first fish copy
We were on an island, Gotland Island, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The restaurant was suggested by my cousin I had just met – actually a cousin is the easy description. Our common ancestor is my great grandfather on my dad’s mom’s side. I’m just happy to be related to such a great group of people.

We were in the medieval city of Visby. We were sitting outside, next to a medieval church, on the edge of a large and very old courtyard of cobblestone and the harbor was a few blocks away. They served us Baltic Herring on mashed potatoes, with a sprig of chive, a wedge of lemon.

When you crave a food, eating it may give a temporary satiation. It may be junk that provides some comfort or resonance with past childhood feelings and needs. It may be sugary and satisfying in an over the top but simple way. This fish was perfectly made, it was a flavor and freshness I had only experienced once before, more than 40 years ago when I had fish and chips around 4 pm in Eyemouth Scotland, just after the fishing boats came in. But I remembered, and my cells began a little dance, and this was the food my body wanted and was slowly figuring out how to taste and chew and swallow what felt luxurious and strange and oh so right.

And so it began.

In the last year I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been listening to those healthy cravings, I’ve been considering the strict dietary limitations that made up part of my identity. I’ve been questioning reasons and motives and choices. The other meat options remain outside the realm of what I would consider food for me. There is no sense of loss, no desire, no imagining what the taste might be. I have no interest, even more than that it just doesn’t seem like food and so is distasteful.

But the fish I’ve eaten is wonderful, and so strangely satisfying. I choose carefully, and I hope thoughtfully. Considering source and freshness and the different types of fish. That seems to matter a lot for taste as well as healthy options.

My body has changed so dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. I’ve fought off a huge (ten pounds in the end) fibroid tumor twice – once by uterine artery embolization, and five years ago by having it removed entirely with my uterus. Then losing over 125 pounds, most of it after that surgery. 45% of me is gone. And of course menopause. Which is a very fundamental shift. I think the need for fish stems from that change, most of all.

A body that speaks loudly and clearly about what it needs is a great gift. Changing my perception of who I am, what I believe, and the fundamental day to day pleasure of eating healthy food has been a good thing. I feel more aware, more expansive, even excited about opening a whole dimension of food that I had kept closed off for more than half my life. And it has only been a year, not even 20 meals that included fish.

That meal of Baltic herring my never be matched again in my lifetime. But it is something to strive for. And my body’s wisdom is telling me that by eating fish I may live a bit longer and be able to have a few more opportunities for adventures that will be as welcome and as full.

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