A Lesson In Cleaning Fish and Game From a 12-Year-Old

I'm a little late to the game with this great story from C.J. Chivers that ran in the New York Times last month. I had set it aside to read later and just now got around to it. Still, it feels timely, mostly because the act of butchering my elk is still fresh in my mind and the lesson taught by Chivers' son is one that I can relate to. What 12-year-old Mick Chivers discovers is that even a finely filleted striped bass still hold some extra meat worth saving—meat he turns into a bowl of ceviche for his dad and brother.

Chivers writes:

“Soon [Mick] was at the cutting board and sink with his pile of striped bass scraps and a few Walla Walla and Red Zeppelin onions that he and [his brother] Jack had planted and grown.

“He quickly squeezed about a cup and a half of lemon juice and whisked in two tablespoons of olive oil. Then he sliced a half-cup of small, tangy rings from the garlic stems and chopped a few onions and hot peppers, which, for reasons we cannot explain, tended more to sweet than heat.

“Everything went into a bowl: bass scraps, garlic greens, onions, his lemon-juice-and-oil cocktail, all topped with a quick hail of sea salt. He turned it all over a few times with a wooden spoon.

“This is where I’d like to say that we let it soak for a few hours. We didn’t. The day was warm, the fish was cold and we were hungry. After 30 minutes or so we broke out the forks and the bowl, and sat down to a midsummer’s lunch.

“I’d like to say we didn’t drink the juice afterward. But we did.”

If you’re still cleaning fish, you can use Chivers’s description as a guide for your own ceviche, or if you’ll be processing some game animals this fall, keep Mick’s lesson at the front of your mind. No matter how closely I cut out my backstraps, there always seems to be some meat left behind. If you’re in the same boat, don’t let it go to waste. You could mince it all up and make venison tartare. Or if raw game is not your thing, grind it separate to build a very special burger.

The point is, there are a lot of scraps there and with a little extra time and some fine knife skills, a hunter can not only pay further tribute to the animal he killed, but also make a very fine meal for himself.