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Fish on a First-Name Basis: How Fish Is Caught, Bought, Cleaned, Cooked, and Eaten

Fish on a First-Name Basis: How Fish Is Caught, Bought, Cleaned, Cooked, and Eaten

4.4 17
by Rob DeBorde

"A book about fish that's as fun as it is informative, and as easy to read as it is hard to put down."—Alton Brown, creator and host of the hit Food Network show Good Eats and author of I'm Just Here for the Food

The ultimate guide to fish and shellfish, from deep to dock to dinner plate

What's in a fish's name? History, mythology,


"A book about fish that's as fun as it is informative, and as easy to read as it is hard to put down."—Alton Brown, creator and host of the hit Food Network show Good Eats and author of I'm Just Here for the Food

The ultimate guide to fish and shellfish, from deep to dock to dinner plate

What's in a fish's name? History, mythology, and marketing: You'll find each in the names of everyday seafood, although sometimes it's what you don't find that's most interesting. Consider the Patagonian toothfish. Never heard of it? That's because it's Chilean Sea Bass on menus, even though it's not a bass, nor is it found primarily off the coast of Chile. Perhaps you'd prefer a nice Pacific red snapper fillet? Too bad, all fish sold using that name are actually rockfish. You could always order a jumbo shrimp . . . or would that be a colossal prawn? And if the menu says "dolphin," what are you eating, really?

Of course, knowing the name of a fish is just what comes before eating it, and Fish on a First-Name Basis contains more than a hundred mouthwatering recipes, from classic fish-and-chips, lobster rolls, and crab fritters to Scalloped Ceviche and Cinnamon Crunch Tilapia.

With Fish on a First-Name Basis, author Rob DeBorde has also filled in the gaps most seafood cookbooks leave open by crafting an indispensable scrapbook of seafood science, fish-market full disclosures, essential cooking tips, and even the truth behind a few underwater urban legends. With more than two hundred illustrations, photographs, and diagrams showing you exactly where to cut, crack, or shuck, Fish on a First-Name Basis is a treat for the eyes as well as the stomach.

Informative, witty, and easy to read, Fish on a First-Name Basis is a must-read whether you're a seafood fanatic or a fish-phobic first-timer.

"Terror struck the undersea community when Rob DeBorde wrote this book. Thanks to this grand fishing expedition, sea creatures everywhere will be forced to come out of their shells and onto our tables. A delight to read and cook from, Fish will cause a great many fish to be eaten."—Steven A. Shaw, author of Turning the Tables

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
DeBorde, a writer for the Food Network's Good Eats, has taken the slick and amusing characteristics of that Alton Brown show and applied them toward the proper understanding of seafood. Marginalia runs rampant, telling readers, for example, that swordfish enjoy glow-in-the-dark bait and that some clams live for more than a century. Fortunately, the author knows his way around a pun and is expert and comprehensive in his fishy explorations. Vital stats and nutritional information charts dot most chapters, and 18 sea creatures get their own sections. In each, recipes are preceded by several pages of historical or ichthyological ponderings. For east coasters, the chapter on Dungeness crabs will prove revelatory. Naturally, there is a traditional Fish and Chips recipe, made with cod, and there's a fine page on turning tuna into sushi. Illustrations are appropriately funny and instructive. A red snapper holds up a sign reading, "Yes, I am a red snapper, why do you ask?" and then a few pages later is gutted and carved, step by step. If it's true you can tune a piano but you cannot tuna fish, DeBorde at least takes on his material in just the right pitch. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
DeBorde, writer for the FoodNetwork's Good Eats, has produced a hit that serves as both cookbook and handbook. It is divided into 18 chapters, each of which is devoted to a different fish-e.g., salmon, tilapia, and catfish as well as the more intriguing squid, scallops, swordfish, and Patagonian toothfish. Each chapter also contains a chart of "Vital Stats" that covers the fish's common and scientific name, life span, and region as well as a number of enticing recipes, such as Grilled Mahimahi Tacos and Cinnamon Crunch Tilapia. DeBorde offers readers tips on preparation and where and how to find the best fresh and frozen fish. He also includes an appendix, "The Ones That Almost Got Away," in which he lists essential kitchen utensils and suggested readings. Filled with all manner of fish trivia, facts, and images, this quick, witty, and highly entertaining book is sure to become a valuable reference source on the topic. Recommended for all libraries.-Nicole Mitchell, Birmingham, AL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
7.62(w) x 9.37(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

Fish on a First-Name Basis


Here There Be Fishes

I like fish. No great mystery there (that is my name on the cover), but it's not just the taste that has me hooked. Fish are fascinating long before they reach the plate. From the time they're born to the moment of truth on my tongue the life of the average fish (or shellfish) is an excellent story, full of twists and turns, action and adventure, and even the occasional courtroom drama. It's a fun tale, and one that I am more than happy to tell. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce your dinner ...




This book is the direct result of an encounter with a squid steak sandwich. It was hot, too hot to eat right off, which is how I found myself pondering my meal lest I singe my taste buds.

Let's see ... a squid large enough to build a sandwich around probably didn't come from local waters. Mexico? Hawaii? The Pacific, parts unknown? I wonder how old it was. Did it swim a good life? Travel much? And what about that below sea level address? Did it dive to great depths or slip through the sunny surface waters? Was it days or weeks since it last shot beneath the waves squirting ink at would-be predators and sinking its beak into prey of its own? Months?



In a few minutes my lunch had a bio that included battling baby sperm whales and eluding schools of hungry tiger sharks. The wife, three bites into her chicken marinara, suggested I might want to seek professional help.

I wrote a book instead.

What's in a Name?

In addition to first names, I've also included the scientific names for all of the fish found in this book. The system for creating these names was developed in 1758 by Carl von Linné (more commonly known as Linnaeus) and breaks down into two parts, the genus and species. The fact that most names are derived from Latin or Greek roots has nothing to do with keeping the riffraff out of the sciences. (Or so the scientists would have us believe.)

Learn me about some fish

Where's the Trout?

Unfortunately, there are too many fish in the sea, or at least too many to fit in a book like this one. The species found within were chosen (more or less) because they're the most popular and readily available fish and shellfish at most markets. No, you probably won't find every one at your favorite shop, but whatever's missing is only a few clicks away online and usually just as fresh.

Enough with the calamari cliffhanger—what you really want to know is this: How do I cook it? I hear ya. Let's get that out of the way early, shall we?

Buy the freshest fish or shellfish you can find and cook it as little as possible.

Yes, it's that simple. Granted, there are a few details that need to be addressed—how fresh is fresh and what exactly does that look like? What about fresh frozen or frozen at sea? In terms of time, how little is long enough? Is that in minutes or seconds? If I told you now, would you keep reading? Exactly.

The truth is every fish is unique. All may be best served fresh and fast, but each species has its own ideal set of guidelines for getting there. No, that doesn't mean memorizing a bunch of Latin names or overwritten procedurals, but it does mean getting to know each fish on a first name basis. Will knowing that catfish have taste buds covering every inch of their bodies really make your dinner taste better?

Yes. Yes, it will.

(And if it doesn't, it'll at least make you more fun at parties.)

A round of applause

About those Numbers

It's hard to write about fish without mentioning numbers and there are a lot of them in this book (both fish and numbers). I've tried to be as accurate as possible when it comes to fish counts and catch totals, but each new season means new numbers, which may or may not look like last year's figures.

Thanks to all the fishermen and fishmongers who took the time to answer my questions, no matter how dumb. Thanks to Joe and Steve at Chesapeake Fish Company in San Diego for the tour. Thanks to Race Street Seafood & Poultry in San Jose for all the fish (and one turkey) over the years, and to Newman's Fish Market in Portland for what is hands down the freshest fish in town.

Thanks to Alton, Dana, and Tamie for the crash course on how to write about food. Thanks to Dave and Tako the Octopus for getting me into this mess in the first place.

Thanks to John Parsley at Thomas Dunne Books for actually getting a green light on a fish book. Big thanks to Michael Psaltis for setting the hook and stumbling around Fulton Street at four in the morning to look at fish.

Thanks to Dad for taking me fishing. Thanks to Mom for inspiration, information, and being my second in the kitchen. Finally, thanks to Sue for patience, for printing, and for putting up with all those fish. The book is done. Let's go get a steak.

No, not you, dear reader. For you, it's all about the fish!

FISH ON A FIRST-NAME BASIS. Copyright © 2006 by Rob DeBorde. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

Rob DeBorde first earned culinary celebrity status as the voice of accident-prone eight-legged chef Tako the Octopus. The fact that Rob also wrote and directed Tako's award-winning Internet cooking show, Deep Fried, Live! with Tako the Octopus, helped him land a gig as a writer on Alton Brown's popular Food Network show, Good Eats. Rob continues to write for Good Eats and Tako from his land-locked Portland, Oregon—based studio. For his next trick, he plans to make a documentary about the world's most elusive seafood—-the Dungeness lobster.

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Fish on a First-Name Basis: How Fish Is Caught, Bought, Cleaned, Cooked, and Eaten 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We need to change the territory!!! -Nightstar
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Can I join? I'm an brown elder with amber eyes. I'm blind.
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For HeroClan!
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I have joined in the eleventh result. ~Silver~
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stupid tick on my back. ~ Stargaze (elder)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the best book read the sample it sucked!
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My nook is fixed and now i can do my duties as deputy can someone get me up to date Emberheart
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Behave treekit!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely clever and informative book on fish and how to cook it. It is entertaining by itself as Mr. Deborde writes in a friendly and folksy manner and the section on halibut (and also the one on scallops and lobsters and shrimp and catfish and.....) is worth the price.