Gone Fishing: My First Time Eating Fish


Albert Respicio

Staff writer Albert Respicio gets ready to try a piece of sushi.

Imagine that you live on an island surrounded by water, and you’ve never had the one thing that’s most abundant around it: fish.

Despite being born and raised here in Oahu, having spent almost the entirety of my 22 years of existence on this island, I have never eaten sushi, poke, ahi, and most shellfish.

Yeah, it’s weird, I know.

I have stayed away from fish as much as possible for as long as possible. Despite my mom cooking some Filipino dishes with tilapia and baked salmon or going to the Makiki Foodland before school with my friends to pick up a poke bowl, I never asked to try it and would only joke about trying it. So outside of surviving Lent with a plain canned tuna sandwich, I stayed away from the deep blue’s bounty.

I’m not entirely sure what caused this aversion. Maybe it was caused by watching “Finding Nemo” as a kid. The scene with Marlin, Dory, and the sharks that said “fish are friends, not food” justified my apprehension toward fish. Perhaps it was the trauma of losing my beloved goldfish at the precious age of 8 or 9 that made me reluctant to even bother trying.

Many of my hesitancies are mainly with uncooked or slightly cooked dishes like sushi and poke. The texture and the smell are deal breakers. Shellfish is a direct and concise no. I can still smell the fumes of the long-dead lobsters and small sharks of my high school Marine Biology class that we dissected. Nauseating was an understatement.

It’s somewhat ironic that someone who can’t stomach fish has no problem eating meat. Though, rarely, many of us see the full slaughtering of an animal for processing, and Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” can only paint so much of a picture. I remember being at my cousin’s house and seeing a chicken turning into that night’s dinner with a simple snap or seeing a roasted pig for the first time. It’s easy to disassociate the product from the process. 

So, putting graphic imagery aside, I decided that after 22 years, it was time I really tried some fish.

After reluctantly nibbling on the smallest piece of poke from the local Foodland, its rubbery texture felt awkward but familiar as the bite continued. Despite the semi-familiar smell of salty sea air, it was “not bad.”

Pushing aside the daunting task of changing my food palate, it took a week to muster up the courage to brave the test of my begrudging adversary. 

Picking up an ahi plater from Genki Sushi, it was all or nothing from here on out.  

A simple ahi roll, a spicy ahi roll, poke bowl, and a California roll. As someone who can barely handle most spicy things, the spicy ahi roll was pretty hot upon the first bite. Despite that, I enjoyed it, but the spicy got to me. The plain and smaller bite-sized roll were also enjoyable, but the sushi rice was overwhelming. Negating many of my hesitations, the lightly seared fish was the easiest to eat. While it felt rubbery compared to what I’m normally used to, it was my favorite. However, I didn’t like the California roll and felt that there was too much going on in one bite. 

Arguably, there are still many different types of fishy dishes to try and choose from with a nearly endless variety and places to get them from, but it was far from bad. If anything, it was pretty good. My preference of the lightly seared variety was cemented last Friday when fellow staff writer Gavin Bedoya, who works at KuruKuru Sushi in Kahala, brought an assorted plater of ahi, salmon, and shrimp for the entire staff. The light smokiness of the seared ahi and salmon felt richer than previous attempts, enough to were an audible “wow” got the attention of the whole room.

So after all of that, I can firmly say I tried some fish. Not only did I try it, I enjoyed most of it. Despite my hesitation and doubts, I was able to try something new. Something that I spent years resisting without ever trying, and I liked it. It won’t be the new regular, but it never hurts to step out of your comfort zone and be adventurous every now and then.