Who doesn't remember the 80's 'white fish in parsley sauce' and 'boil in the bag fish'. My Grandma would never have dreamt of cooking fish or shellfish, she wouldn't touch a prawn and unless it was covered in batter, fish was off the menu too. My mum however, didn't inherit this fish phobia and practically weaned us on fish.
There wasn't the opportunity to be scared of either eating or catching fish growing up. Russ, my brother was obsessed with fishing for trout. He would go out fishing to the local tarn for hours on end, come back with a fish or two, leave them in the sink where their eyeballs would bulbously follow me around the kitchen. This was the most disgusting thing ever. Bless my mother, she would dutifully gut them then serve them perfectly cooked sprinkled with almonds! It is something I still hold very close to my heart. Whoever thought Trout and Almonds would work? It might be a bit 80's but it's delicious.
When I was younger (6/7) we used to go to Estapona, Spain (which was then a small fishing village) and one of my earliest memories was being presented with a plate of lots of fried fish. I fiddled with their almost non existent eyeballs before being persuaded by the old waiter (who was probably about 40 but then seemed 'ancient') to eat the entire fish whole. The concept of eating bones/eyeballs/skin/tail completely consumed me for a while but I liked it. Recently on holiday I encourage Tilly to eat the whole fish and as you can see here, she did. She liked it but wasn't too keen on the tail!
Tilly and Florence love fish, we often make fishcakes or bake a whole fish for Sunday dinner instead of having chicken/beef/lamb. I personally know a few adults that don't eat/won't try fish and I honestly believe the reason for this is that they never had much of it as children or the fish they ate was pretty poorly cooked and tasted like homogeneous slush. I always find it odd that people are prepared to eat Lamb (which in my view has a very strong smell), goats cheese (which smells like the animal) but won't eat fish.
Understandably, parents fear the bones in fish when feeding babies and toddlers but once cooked, it's pretty easy to feel for bones before pureeing the fish. Likewise with toddlers/children's meals, I pre-cook the fish and then flake it with my fingers to feel for any bones. We regularly make fishcakes. Any leftover mash is made into salmon/mackerel/tuna fishcakes with whatever herbs are in such as Dill, Parsley, Chives and coriander work nicely. We blitz them up with a tablespoon of mayonnaise and coat in egg/flour/breadcrumbs. I have found I've been able to introduce some strong flavours doing this. One of Tilly's favourites is when we blitz a few pieces of air dried or parma ham & spring onions in too, it's absolutely delicious.
There have been so many issues around over fishing over the past few years. For a while we have ignored some of the lesser known but equally delicious fish and seafood but more recently, many of the delicious fish we have forgotten about or ignored over the past few years are more readily available. One of our favourites is Mackerel. I know so many people who turn their noses up at the thought of Mackerel on toast but it's yummy and children really love it. I mix it with soft cheese or a bit of mayonnaise and spread it on toast or bread. I also do a Mackerel Macaroni Cheese (thanks to my friends Paul and Rach) and a Mackerel Bake.
I always have a chat with the fishmonger as to what is responsibly sourced but when I'm buying from the supermarkets I look out for evidence that the fish is sustainable and where possible line caught.