So I posted on Facebook:
Andrew is my 10 year old son.
I wasn’t going to elaborate further on FB, nor did I even intended to bring this up on my blog (it would seem to be somewhat inappropriate for a food blog) but I feel like I must TRY to explain, since I’ve had 5 friends decline invitations to come over for dinner since that unfortunate posting.
Let me back up. It all started with an illegal fish stand on the side of a rural highway + a 10-foot plywood board with spray-painted, neon orange large letters advertising their catch.
Wow, I’m just making it worse, huh?
Okay, so I live 10 miles “out east” which means I’m outside of the city limits, in a more rural area. My neighbors all have delicious-looking pets grazing and staring at me suspiciously when we drive by everyday (I think they can sense that I’m a good cook and that I have great plans for them.)
The way from town to home involves driving a 10-mile, 2-lane highway. We share the road with massive 10-wheelers transporting precious cargo, most of the time oranges from the groves across the state. This is a highway that is a speed-demon’s friend – there rarely are cops, the road is a straight shot with and there’s never any traffic. Passing is allowed and happens often. Everyone is in a hurry. Everyone is late. Everyone is impatient.
The most dangerous aspect of this 2-lane road isn’t driving fast – it’s the dumb people who think they can pass the slower cars by going into oncoming traffic lane. But as fast as these idiots are going, they fail to realize that the cars going the other way are DRIVING JUST AS FAST and someone has to swerve back in. I’m afraid to drive too fast, terrified to drive too slow.
A couple of months ago, this local family set up shop on the side of this highway. They had their pickup truck hooked up to a smoker and advertised
“SMOKED MULLET FOR SALE.”
Mullet fish here in the warm waters of Tampa Bay are plentiful – during the winter months of November – January, the mullet fish run thick. They are prized for their rich roe (eggs or caviar), which is then exported to Asia and Italy. The mullet is a plain looking fella, not especially tasty itself, and considered a “lowly” fish….I mean, when was the last time you ordered a fish whose name resembles a horrid 80’s haircut?
But the mullet isn’t prized for its flesh anyways. The roe commands exorbitant prices as a delicacy – “karasumi” in Japan and “bottarga” in Italy.
If you’ve dined in Italy, you might be familiar with bottarga, which is salted-cured, sun-dried roe that is grated to top pasta. The price is about $80 for a pound.
In Japan, it’s prepared the same way, and either grated or sliced as a natural sake pairing – one of these babies can cost $300 in Japan!
Harvesting the mullet roe is incredibly lucrative for Florida fisherman, who sell it to packaging companies and export it. During the “Mullet Run” fishermen from all over Florida converge at Cortez Fishing Village, one of the very last true fishing villages in the Gulf of Florida. Mullet travel in massive schools, and they leap, jump, skip above the water.
In fact, you just have to see how ridiculously high they jump:
(the guy’s youtube video has a 14 second ad – just bear through those 14 seconds, YES – the video is worth it.)
The female fish are sliced open, and a golden yellow egg sac about the SIZE OF MY HAND slithers out. Cha-ching! What about the rest of the fish? Well, there’s a small market for smoked mullet. But it’s a “Florida thing” and even then it’s mostly a “side-of-the-road” operation like I encountered near my house or at best a “fish shack” or farmer’s market thing.
I swear, I’m getting to my story back to fish sperm.
The cars were whizzing by way too fast to just casually pull over to investigate the sale. You’d certainly cause an accident if you even THOUGHT about slowing down. But I was curious. I wanted roe. The last time I had bottarga was 4 years ago at Giuliano Hazan’s (the late, great, Marcella Hazan’s son) house for dinner. Giuliano shaved the Italian imported bottarga over hand-made pasta that he had just finished cooking.
Pulling over requires forethought. There’s no shoulder on the road. Just asphalt, 4-inch yellow paint, then it drops off into unknown territory of roadkill remains, grass, dirt, holes, snakes, opossum, skunk and armadillo. (I’m really not painting a good picture of where I live, am I?)
To make this happen, I have to judge how much further before the Mullet People (the only landmarks keep moving and grazing on fresh grass) and steadily and slowly decrease my speed without braking — so that the cars behind me really don’t notice and that I don’t start a passing frenzy. It takes me 5 days of our daily drive to town to calculate distance, speed….waiting for the perfect opportunity and conditions to execute (average mass of cars behind me÷ by distance between each car + estimated age of drivers x square root of earth’s rotation + distance of the accelerated object coming from other lane.
There’s a sense of urgency – what if the Mullet People (great band name btw) sell out and don’t come back tomorrow?
Finally, the perfect storm. The angels above sing, there is ample room between me and all cars, so I pull over. There was a man and woman.
“Hi there! Do you have any mullet roe?”
“We don’t have any here, but I can bring some tomorrow.”
“Great – how much?”
“Oh I don’t know. How about $25 for 2 bags of 5 pounds each?”
*quick calculation* SCORE! $25 for 10 pounds!! Do these people not know the value of mullet roe!???? Me, cooly: “Sure. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
For the next 24 hours, I research salt curing and drying the roe. I have come up with no less than 8 different recipes and various applications for my bargain roe. Which of my friends were worthy of getting some of this fine Steamy Kitchen Bottarga.
I show up the next day with $25 in cash plus a $5 tip. The lady hands over 2 gallon-sized bags: “Here’s your mullet white roe!”
Okay. I should have surveyed the situation instead of getting caught up in the excitement of cheap fish eggs.
1. Her little mullet stand was an illegal operation. No license to cook and sell.
2. Every time a cop car passed, she pretended to fix a “flat tire”
3. The absurdly low bargain price should have been a big red flag
4. Mullet roe is golden yellow, like a beautiful fading sunset color, NOT white
5. As I drove away and looked back in the rearview mirror, she gave her partner a high-five
Unfortunately, despite #1 through #5, I proceeded onwards with the intention of salt-curing. One bag went into the freezer, one bag to cure.
I powered up my laptop, sat on the kitchen counter with this bag of white roe staring at me and searched “Mullet White Roe” to see if the recipe would be the same.
The first result, Florida Sportsman says, “The white variety comes from male fish and is, technically, not roe, although it wears that name. It’s good, too, but not so richly flavored as the eggs it was meant to fertilize.”
UM, GEE. YOU MEAN SPERM!?????????????
Are you kidding me? I bought 10 pounds of fish sperm to eat?????? (I know, there’s a bridge you want to sell me, right?)
I was SO furious.
Was there a way to salvage the situation at all? What if Mullet Sperm….errrr….I mean “White Roe” actually tasted delicious? My ignorance would prevent me from enjoying one of earth’s finest delicacies? High-end, authentic Japanese sushi restaurants sometimes serve cod fish sperm or “Shirako”- which translates to “white offspring” (very effective naming) as a very special dish – Kathryn Hill at The Kitchn even had it.
But there was a massive difference:
|From lowly,bottom feeding, skanky fish, called Mullet
in warm tropical waters of Florida.
|From highly prized Black Cod Fish in cold Atlantic waters.|
|Picked from the discarded remains.||Carefully harvested and reserved.|
|I’ve never seen it on any menu.||Usually not on the menu. You have
to know somebody to have access to this traditional
Japanese delicacy.Special dish for a sushi chef’s best customers.
|Pan fried on back of a fishing boat. Tabasco and
crackers. Cheap beer to wash it down.
|Cleansed with salt, gently steamed in a dashi broth, mirin
and soy sauce, served with miso soup and seaweed.
|$25 for 10 pounds||$25 for 6-ounces|
|Also known as Florida Redneck Roe||Also known as Milt|
No amount of tabasco and Ritz covered up the taste of “White Roe.” (Yes, I did try it)
The entire bag went down the garbage disposal, I didn’t even want to compost the thing – for fear that my one day my tomatoes would taste like….ohnevermind.
So that was 2 months ago.
Four days ago, while rummaging in my freezer, I found the other 5-pound bag of fish sperm. Oh yeah,
I had forgotten about that Erased the horrid memory of Florida Redneck Roe.
Its fate would be the same as its brothers and sisters (literally) – down the drain. I put it in the extra refrigerator in the studio to defrost – on the top shelf so that we wouldn’t accidentally grab it.
Silly me, I had forgotten about it again. It’s not every day that I remind myself, “oh, I have fish sperm defrosting.”
The next day, Andrew opened the refrigerator in the studio to grab a drink. As he opened the refrigerator……well, let’s just say that the bag of wiggly, jiggly, liquidy, Mullet fish sperm sacs fell over while defrosting and was probably leaning against the door. So as Andrew opened the door, the bag of sperm broke open while falling ON TOP OF HIM. ALL OVER HIM. His hair, his face, his body, his feet.
I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream in horror. My poor 10-year old son doesn’t even know what SPERM is.
I ordered the soaking, dripping, sticky Andrew to disinfect himself and shower. I sent Nathan off to get some old towels to clean up the mess.
The boys knew it was raw fish. And I didn’t further elaborate, fearing that disclosing the “FISH SPERM” detail would only one day cost $$$$$ in therapy bills.
Something this bizarre doesn’t happen unless the stars are aligned just right. So, that’s the story, the very long story about why my studio still smells a little fishy despite 6 different air fresheners, 3 boxes of baking soda and a 2-pack of Febreeze.
I’ll say this about that….. I am a native from Florida many great grandparents ago….. And when you say fish row to me you’re saying bright yellow eggs that come from a female mullet from the West Coast of Florida. Today I drove 200 miles round trip to get what I was told yesterday was roe mullet. When I got to the place what Greeted me was a bag full of Fish cum !!!… I had already drove the distance so I bought the fish And had to pay extra for a bag of the real stuff. The lady didn’t tell me yesterday that it would be white fish sperm when I told her I was coming to get 30 fish. I won’t say the name of the place… But it’s Robinson’s fish market on the right before you get to Cedar Key. I paid close to $300 for 30 fish and a bag of fishburn and some yellow row that ibot separate. I think they should at least tell you what you’re getting that some of it is going to be white. Because that’s what it is… Fish cum
You should move back to Connecticut or wherever else you came from. The only reason no one appreciates Florida culture is that they are all from somewhere else. You write about a culinary and cultural tradition like it is a show to see on the side of the road. Go back.
Wow super rude and yet you read the whole article. Go back to your mom and smack her for bringing her New Jersey manners to raise you in Florida.
I loved your story! I bet you keep your family rolling with such elaborate descriptions.(I especially like the 2 path road). I am from s. Ga. Any was raised on mullet. Some turn theirnose up on it but it is “special” to me. I don’t care for white roe either though I know sone who do. I remember sime “special” winter mornings(usually sundays) when my mother would serve us red roe and eggs with red roe biscuts and cane syrup. Today that is a meal I will eat antime! Enjoyed your post.
Oh my goodness, I just love the story! Mullet roe, white and yellow,are very popular is south Georgia as well. (I spent 35 of 53 years living here.) Most fish is donated to soup kitchens, prisons, and hospitals. The last time I bought some they were $12 a pound for yellow and white a dollar less. It is battered in corn meal, fried in a cast iron skillet and served with Tabasco. I have never liked the white, no matter how it is prepared. It is nasty and the texture is unbearable.
The reason I came across your story is because I was searching for “Why mullet turn my urine to oil?” Lol, i am too embarrassed to ask my doctor, yet i can post it here. Yeah, i am one of those craxy people you don’t want to hang around with.
Thank you for my laughs today. Better luck in the future.
I actually prefer the white to the red roe as it’s an excellent and almost identical substitute for oysters in oyster stew.
Hey, Folks, reading this here in Australia where the Sea Mullet (Mugil cephalus), same as your Grey Mullet are presently on their breeding run up the east coast full of roe (females) and white roe or melts/milts (males). The fresh flesh is excellent dusted in seasoned flour and pan-fried in olive oil then served with fresh white bread, butter, lemon or lime juice. The roe is just as good but the melts are the best. Prepare both like the flesh. Most Australians don’t eat this fish in any of its guises, though. Used to be thought of as a dish for the poor in the lean times after the Second World War and the perception still persists. Mullet are mostly used as bait for more prestigious table fish here; prestigious in the minds of most Aussie diners who wouldn’t know their arse from their elbow when it comes to fish eating.
I also accidentally bought some “white roe”, thing is, when I found out I twas milt I was actually quite excited, Roe is good, but Id never been able to track down the milt and since I learned of its culinary uses ive failed to net a single mullet (seemingly impossible, but I pulled it off). Such a happy accident it was, I brought it home, battered it up, and fried it golden, what do you know, it tasted just like a more mild mullet flesh, Its a real shame you didnt make something with it because apparently even the semen is popular in italy.
(as a side note, a local place here sells the roe for just 2 dollars more a pound than the milt.)
hi i’m in Florida who wants White Roe..
Actually fresh fried mullet and roe are delish. Especially the “white ones”…they’re my fave…battered and fried. Keep the back bones and do the same.
White vinegar Not yellow vinegar this time (no pun intended). I enjoyed your story. 😄
1. Ew. Just…ew.
2. For the stink, try Nature’s Miracle. Sold at Petsmart or Petco or your local pet store.
4. Next time, chum for catfish with it and eat them. Much better.
This story is hilarious!
White vinegar is an effective odor remover. Just put some in an open dish and it will absorb the smell.
Hahaha. I loved your story! You are so funny. And I thought stuff like that only happened to ME! 🙂
Oh My poor Guy, well You can tell him he just made a memory that he will never forget and will give him and who he tells something to laugh about and feel good because these memorys the ones that make you laugh, they keep you happy………
That’s so funny. I thought I was the only person that did things like that. I do have to say, you’ve got me beat. I’ve never come across that situation.
I think that this could only happen to you! Poor kid Andrew! I had only recently heard of bottargo and would love to try it. I heard it was available at a seafood place, I think in Clearwater or one of the beaches in that area, maybe somewhere near Johns Pass. , they make it themselves. Of course right now I can’t remember the name of the place! Hope you get the smell out LOL
I’d try a product called “Kids and Pets stain and odor remover”, or Resolve’s carpet pet odor remover… it gets out those funky smells because it uses enzymes, not scent. Good luck!
Have you tried products with orange oil for the smell? It works very well for cleaning gunk and eliminating odors.
Or wiping/soaking all surfaces with white vinegar? One of my cats had a bladder problem a few years ago and since he couldn’t exactly tell me about it, he proceeded to pee everywhere except his litterbox. So I spent days washing everything washable with vinegar and wiping/soaking all areas with vinegar. Worked surprisingly well.
That’s disgusting! Hope you get the smell out. The Property Brothers (a TV show) have used some acid on a concrete basement floor to get cat urine smell out–said that’s the only thing that works, since concrete is porous. I don’t remember what acid it was–maybe you could Google it? Or email the show?
Thanks for starting my day with a great laugh!
i love this iT IS SO NORMAL life happens
I love this.
You are one funny lady. And sage advice to boot. Just how many people do you think stopped to buy mullet roe on the side of the road?
I am laughing so hard I can’t even catch my breath!
Thank you for making my horrible day end on a light note. Haha
Thanks for the humor…came at a good time for sure. Your great with words and would make a great book writer….for sure this would be a true story but change the names to protect Andrew. …grin…..Thanks again….
Jaden, you do have a gift for “storytelling” – must be true, who could possibly make all of this up? Thanks for sharing.
Well, what can I say, I’m with everyone else — this is a VERY funny story, told masterfully! I’d wait a LONG time before telling Andrew anything further, but he might actually appreciate the story *someday*. Loved the picture you painted of the Mullet People and your efforts to stop there.
Funniest story I have heard in a long time! Poor kid! That will be a story the family will laugh about long after he is grown. Every family has those stories. They make the best memories!
SO FUNNY! and that’s why I love your posts!
I think I would have made some of the nastiest tasting mullet sperm omelet or patties and dropped it off to those people that sold it to you. Lol
That’s hilarious! Poor Andrew.
Haha, awesome. Great story telling! Thank you for sharing.
Your story made me laugh! My stepfather used to (not exactly legally) net mullet. He loved them. He even built his own smoker and smoked them. Smoked Roe is amazing, try it some time. I’m sure we ate the “white roe” too, and I probably liked it, but then he fed me all sorts of things (tripe among them). When you get to St. Petersburg, go to Ted Peter’s. It’s famous, on St. Pete Beach. They have smoked mullet year round. Their smoked fish spread is amazing. I’ve never known them to have roe as I think they keep it for themselves. I’d love to talk them into sharing some time. Their smokehouse would have your less gutsy friends cringing, but you can take it. I always thought the hairdo was named after the fish personally. The fish could rock that look.
I heard of Ted Peters! I’ll definitely head over there when I’m in town.
You are one of a kind and I love your Youtube channel. Thanks for making my day! LOL. By sharing this story, it demonstrates that you are humble and a very good person (as well as a very sensible parent). It’s so believable because there is no way that anybody could make up this kind of story.
Take good care,
Poor poor Andrew! Omigosh, he is getting to be such a big boy…this is going to be a great story to tell, one day.
I think your story is hilarious and so funny. I was laughing the whole time of reading it. Thanks for making my day.
We all have moments in which retrospect tells us (with a loudspeaker) “…If it seems to good to be true…”
Imagine all the money/time/labor/embarrassment and so on would have been saved had we considered “it” before we did/bought it.
But then again, where would the laughter, the ‘moments’ we have, our stories be? I’d really rather not sit around a campfire talking about getting the best bargain in the store. I’d rather laugh at my friends stories and finally admit to my own, for everyone’s amusement. Life’s more fun that way. Your son will tell people that fish water fell on him when he opened the frig, you can look forward to explaining to the teacher that it was merely thawing fish stock- yeah, that sounds good, fish stock- go ahead and use fish stock. Until he/she reads your post.
Poor child, you have to sympatize with him even though you find it very funny!
I hate to laugh at poor Andrew’s expense, but this story is in fact hilarious to the nth degree. Please don’t beat yourself up about it, though, because anyone could have gotten caught up in the excitement and made the same purchase. Besides, the story this adventure makes is worth every dollar you spent making it happen.
Hilarious! What a gift for storytelling you have. Btw, have you seen the sperm salesman since?
Ahahaha! What a hilarious story, Jaden! I must admit I would have tried it too, you never know… It could have been a great culinary discovery! Too bad it wasn’t 😉
I feel horrible for laughing at Andrew’s expense, but reading this was exactly what I needed to try and not take life too seriously today. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!
omg too funny 🙂 your poor son lol
omg too funny 🙂 your poor son lol
Some days I need something to make me laugh so hard my shoulders shudder. I think this did the trick. Thanks for the smile!
Oh poor Andrew! I laughed so hard when I read the status. I think “I can’t believe this just happened and have to share it” posts are my favorite 🙂
Too funny! I am just glad I am not the only one easily duped with flaky food stuff:) I remember my mother teaching me the difference between the fish roe and fish sperm, which was always milky white. But I don’t doubt for a second I would not have bought the Mullet People’s “roe”!
OMG – best post ever.
So how much Tabasco did it take to disinfect Andrew?
Thank you for sharing this – very funny and very educational.
Oh my goodness! What a story. You’ll have to tell him someday-when the memory isn’t quite so fresh in his mind.
Great story! I was laughing the entire time. Too funny!
Oh boy!!! That’s a story. I’m going to give you a tip to get the smell out of your studio… In a Small container mix equal part white vinegar and bleach… Place around the room. The smell will be gone zap!!! before you know it.
JADEN! You just made me look very funny here at our local coffee shop as I read your story in horror. I was laughing, I was horrified, I was reading with intense focus lol! I’m positively dying right now!!
This story is quite hilarious, a good laugh thanks for sharing.
Girl, when you do it, you do it good. I do love how you think.
I almost regret reading that. Almost. Too funny. (and ugh!)
Oh my! I needed this laugh, thank you! (I’m gagging, too!)
Great story… I think you should sit your husband down and break the news to him (after handing him a nice cold beer) and video record his reaction… I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say “would love to see that one”. Thanks for the laugh!!! 🙂
That was a story worth reading!!! Thanks!
I don’t know how I would break the news to my husband. That is one for the history books, surely. Oh, and also, did I mention, hilarious!!?!!
The part about you not wanting to compost due to fear of what your tomatoes *might* taste like: literally lol’d and that takes a lot.
bahaha. The odds of all that happening to anyone are so slim its poetic.
I’m sorry Andrew had this experience, but this is really one of the funniest things I read all day. I was both gagging and laughing. Thanks for sharing.
This story made me laugh so much. Poor Andrew. I hope the fish smell goes away soon!
Best. story. ever. Nothing that exciting happens here! LOL
Oh, my! “I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream in horror.” Sorry, I’m laughing! Poor, Andrew. But I definitely would taken a photo as a blackmail for the future teenager. heheheh
I love you! I love your story. I would eat at your house any day. EVEN if you did serve the Redneck Roe. Hell, people have served me Rocky Mountain Oysters, so why not fish sperm. Oh, and try as I might, I can’t come with a wine pairing for Mullet Sperm. And I’m happy about that!