Fishing for Memories


This is a picture of the fish market. It evokes many of my childhood memories.

“This one okay?”

“Yes, that one.”

The sounds of people buying fish fill my ears as I enter the fish market. The lights flicker, illuminating a row of fish and seafood tanks, and the dead fish on display. The labels, laminated and water-stained paper, read both in Chinese and badly-translated English. The smell of fresh seafood permeates the area toward the back, which is closed off by a translucent plastic screen.

A butcher is busy cutting, scraping, and gutting fish. He works quickly and efficiently, knocking out the fish first, then weighing it and cleaning it for sale. We wait, and watch in silence as he works.

We buy a fish, a striped bass weighing about half a kilogram.

The fish market is a fixture of the Chinese supermarket. It’s the location of choice for many people for buying live fish. As a child, many a weekend was spent there, and many a memory was made there. My earliest memory of going there was when I was five. I remember initially hating the stench of fish, but as the weeks, months, years passed I would slowly get used to the smell. The last time I went there, a few weeks ago, it didn’t bother me at all.

While the fish market may not be the first thing many of us think of when thinking about our childhood, it’s one of the first things that comes to mind. Despite going there on a regular basis, the fish market still stands out to me as one of the most memorable parts of such shopping trips. Despite being there and watching and buying fish so many times, I am still amazed by the efficiency at which he does his work. The fish market truly does stand out as unique among my childhood memories, and will remain so.

I went there again, a few weeks ago, primarily to buy fish, but also to take a stroll down memory lane. Going back for the first time in months brought back a flood of memories, of my father haggling over fish with the butcher, of going and watching the butchers work with my parents. It felt different, though, watching the new butcher, the new layout, and being tall enough to see more of what went on beyond the counter, but some things still hadn’t changed. The feeling of watching someone skilled do their work, the smell, and the cramped feeling of the aisle all reminded me of weekends past, spent with my parents at the Chinese market. Even as we change, there are always things we can trust to stay the same.