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Spirit & Food

"Man who eat crab, walk sideways through life". This quote, heard in my early teens by I can't remember whom, first sparked my interest in how what we eat symbolizes who we have are and who we are becoming. In the past few issues of Spirit-21, we discussed the diet of meats, poultry & game and their associations to the behaviors in our lives. The focus of this article is to address the popular diet of fish and shellfish.

What is common to all fish and seafood? The most obvious answer to this question is that they all live in water. They all have the need to be immersed in a specific environment, be it fresh water or salt water, or farmed in tanks. Individuals, who include fish and shellfish as part of their diet, demonstrate a desire for immersion in the activities or lifestyle of their peers. Recently one of my very close friends in town who had been living alone for 20 years, decided to move to Maine with a new friend who shared a similar lifestyle of one devoted to the Spirit and its work. The year prior to making this change, both of them had "changed their vegetarian diets" to include more salmon and fish, dropping many of the items that were in their previous diets. Since the move, they find themselves immersed in a new group of close friends who share the same interests…that is, schooling behavior of fish!

There are the schooling fishes…salmon, tuna, anchovies, shrimp, sardines and herring to name a few. They are all involved in a "mass movement", or a moving by consensus. Those who choose to frequently eat the schooling fish demonstrate the urge to partake in a certain lifestyle or group movement rather than one by personal initiative. This provides a nice balance for the rugged individualists who come together to participate in a social flow with peers.

Another preference may involve a diet that emphasizes the solitary feeders such as trout, cod, and swordfish. A focus on such a diet demonstrates a strong urge toward immersion in a specific haunt in life, as opposed to the group consensus. We have only to research the behavior of our fish of choice to better understand what we are balancing or adding to our lives. A trout fisherman reflects the behavior of the trout. When I think of a trout fisherman, I see a person, either fishing alone or with a close associate, going back to the same stream or series of favorite streams, year after year. Characteristically, trout are described as returning to the same series of feeding stations throughout their lives. They are rather solitary, and are known for expending the least amount of energy for the maximum amount of energy gain. Do you know any bona fide trout fisherman? What are the characteristics of their chosen lifestyles? Are they more solitary by nature? Compare them with those who enjoy going out with a group on a fishing boat, the more "schooling" behavior.

Then there are shellfish. Scallops take an act of nature to move them from where they reside. They burrow in as do many other shellfish, and it takes a strong current to move them anywhere. Those who choose scallops in their diet may reflect archetypes that only make changes when it is thrust upon them through something outside themselves. When I think about this, I recall the effects that hurricanes have amongst people who choose to live close to the coast. They lose their homes through an "act of God" (not to mention their choice to live there in the first place) and are forced to move. For further reflection, look at the lifestyles of shrimp fisherman, or the lives of those who are dependent on the sea for survival, such as Thailand.

Another interesting set of behaviors to look at is that of the lobster. In the 1800's lobsters were a main food fed to servants rather than the master and mistress of the house, and were so plentiful one only had to walk down to the water's edge in Rhode Island to pick one up by hand in order to catch one. What has changed in the culture now that what was once considered food for the poorer class is now considered a delicacy by many, shipped to Japan from the New England coast at up to $40 per lobster? Lobster behavior is very well documented. Lobsters characteristically are territorially aggressive, and are scavengers and predators who will eat anything they find. They are even cannibalistic. When large lobsters are confined in a tank, they will fight until one loses. They exhibit strong "fight or flight" responses and passive or aggressive tendencies, demonstrated by the standing on the tip of their tails to show aggression, or laying flat on their bellies to demonstrate submission. They use their antennae for whipping, and can move backwards or sideways. They can "freeze" or pirouette. They even show "queuing" behavior, choosing a leader and all following in a line. We can only say that scavengers do serve a function in our society, and sometimes lots of different moves are necessary for one's survival, or the survival of one's followers. Some people savor lobsters, some avoid them, and some could "take" or "leave" them depending on their mood. It is interesting to note that many "vacationers" have a token lobster when they visit a seaside resort. Is this what they feel they need to balance the work they have just left behind? I wonder if people driven to flea markets have a penchant for the scavengers of the sea!

More recently there has been a trend toward fish farming. This indicates a "controlled" environment, and the desire to be immersed in such. Our supermarkets now offer more salmon and other farmed fish such as tilapia, fed on soy rather than smaller fish. Are we interested in becoming more "controlled" by increased consumption of such species that are raised in such a manner? Or is it that we are more trusting of controlled environments now that pollution and over fishing are at issue in the world?

The list of fish and their behaviors is quite extensive and easily researchable. For symbolization of additional varieties of fish and their meanings, we refer you to www.spirit-alembic.com/naturehtml. Further detailed behavioral research of individual species is available through marine research sites available on the web, and via the ever-increasing number of underwater videotapes.

Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the diet of fish in the American culture, and a decrease in the diet of meats. There is one very clear message here…that there is a growing tendency toward immersion in a shared flow of lifestyle by those who choose such a diet, and a decrease in the diet of individuals wanting the behaviors of the bull, discussed in the first issue of Spirit-21.

In our next issue, we will conclude this series on diet with that of the ever increasing vegetarian preference.


Cooking fish at home can be one of the simplest food preparations there is. Fish baked in the oven takes very little time, and the marinades can be very simple or more involved, depending on what you want. Most fishes can be simply cooked with a little something on top to keep it from drying out, or poached in the oven in a little bit of water and herbs, topped with lemon or lime juice and butter. For those of you who prefer to take no chances of a dry fish and prefer a marinade, here is some of our favorite simple to prepare recipes.

HONEY MUSTARD SALMON (1- ½ LB. Fish serves 4)

In a bowl, mix together:

¼ cup honey or brown sugar
¼ cup mustard
¼ cup lemon juice
Dip pieces of salmon in the mixture, and then in breadcrumbs or cornmeal.
Place in casserole dish or on a non-reactive cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.
Serve with lemon or lime slices if desired alongside rice with scallions or your favorite grain.

(1-½ lb. Fish serves 4)

In a bowl, mix together;
½ cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ tsp. Thyme
1-2 tsp. Horseradish
2 tsp. Lemon peel
¼ cup pepper
Skin side down in lightly oiled pan, pour marinade over fish and let rest 20-60 minutes.
Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until cooked.

(1-¾ Lb. Fish serves 4)

In a bowl, mix together:
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Pepper
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. Paprika
¼ tsp. Tarragon
Roll each flounder filet and secure with a toothpick.
Place toothpick side up in a casserole dish.
Spoon the mixture on top of each evenly.
Top with scallions if desired.
Sprinkle lemon juice over all.
Bake at 350 for 20-30 min.