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Howard Jacobson: ‘I’m in two minds about fish’

It’s an atavistic ritual. You take your seat, you ask to see the fish, you poke it and you nod your head. ‘That one’

Just back from a fish holiday. Not fishing for fish, but fingering fish. It’s what’s expected of you when you eat out on a Greek island. If the taverna doesn’t tempt you in off the street with a cabinet of the day’s catch on ice, the waiters will bring a raw selection to your table. Fresh. Feel.

I’m in two minds about fish – it depends how much oil and garlic they cook it in and how well they disguise the taste so that you think you’re eating meat – but I poke the carcasses for politeness’s sake. I have no idea what I’m poking to find or how I’ll know when I’ve found it. Should the fish yield a little to my pressure? Should it resist? Should it be rubbery or slimy; should the eyes be open or closed; should the fish look contented in death, or angry?

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