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tiny bone in cooked fish. Is that bad???????

last night I had a debate with friends at a very nice restaurant in NYC about the health hazard of finding bone in cooked fish. Apparently they are adamant about not eating any fish on their table if it has any bone or remnants of it. They make certain with the waiter that they absolutely don't want any bone in their fish and if they find it they will return it. lo and behold one of their Cod's had a tiny bone in it and promptly returned it. i found this quite comical and asked them for an explanation. According to them there is a twofold problem to this situation.

1) The restaurant tries to save money and they would take a cut of the fish too close to the bone which according to them is undesirable part of the meat

2) if a small piece of the bone is swallowed there is a possibility that you can die as a result of the bone lodging in your esophagus.

how much of this is true? i found this behavior quite ridiculous.

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  1. I don't really like finding bones in my fish either, but I have always heard that the best meat is closest to the bone, whether it be fish, fowl, pork or beef...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Clarkafella

      It has always been my assumption as well that meat closer to the bone is the best part. maybe that's not true with fish!!!!

      1. re: drramin

        TT recalls that many years ago, the Queen Mother was rushed to hospital after a small fish bone lodged itself in her throat. Yes it was tiny, but 1) she was the mother of the Queen of England, and 2) was eighty years old at the time.

        But then, TT has always pinboned fish and is careful in restaurants. Would I send a fish dish back over it? Not unless there were way too many bones which would interrupt eating the dish itself.

        TT

        1. re: TexasToast

          This is good story TexasToast...and isn't also true that when President Johnson invited the Queen and her family to one of his famous Texas BBQs at the ranch she had a hard time getting a hot dog into her mouth? Is this true or is it just folklore...

          1. re: gutreactions

            Your reactions are quite true!

            http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

            Twas the Queen Mother (then Queen Consort to George VI) who was baffled by the hot dog.

            TT

            1. re: gutreactions

              Theres an old joke about two recent Russian emigres who had just landed in New York. As they were walking the streets they saw a Hot Dog cart and they looked at each other in amazed.
              "In America they eat dogs?" one said. The other said "if we want to be Americans we must eat them too."
              So they each bought a hot dog and sat on a nearby bench to eat them.
              "Yuck" said the one Russian as he unwrapped his hot dog,
              "What part did you get?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

      2. It is quite ridiculous.
        1: I assume that they do not cook fresh fish at home. B/C if they did, they would have to make sure to pluck out the bones from the fillets themselves. Sounds like an old wives' tale. Did they use to work in the restaurant business? Why do they suspect this? Very odd.

        2: Do they not chew their food? When I find a bone, I always notice it when I take the bite and then fish it out of my mouth (sorry for the pun). Also, I recall something about the bone being able to pierce you from the inside, but I think it was a rouse that our parents may have told us to make sure that we chew our food properly or such. Do they know of any cases in which someone DID die from swallowing a fish bone? LOL!

        4 Replies
        1. re: justagthing

          I think alot of it must be drama on their part. she also claims to have a severe banana allergy which she found in her desert last night and returned that as well

          1. re: drramin

            Wow! I don't think that I could eat w/these friends. Find some other activities or only eat at where they choose so that you don't have to hear their whining.

            1. re: justagthing

              i guess there should be a new topic. " How to enjoy yourself and in the company of whining friends" lol

              1. re: justagthing

                God, I don't think I could stand those people.

          2. Interesting. There is a very old legal case in Massachusetts which held that it is natural to find a bone in fish chowder and not negligence on the part of the restaurant. I haven;t read the case in a long time so I don;t remember what happened to the customer- ?choked? scratched? In any event, the behavior is ridiculous.

            6 Replies
            1. re: emilief

              Yup. Bones are considered an inherent risk in eating fish. I suppose you could choke on anything, but a tiny bone is not likely to cause much harm. And yes, the best meat is next to the bone.

              It sounds like you're friends fall into the group of people who are afraid of the risks (real and imagined) in food, and are looking for rationales for their fears.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Yep, tell them to just enjoy their fish and if they swallow a bone just swallow a bread ball- that works fairly well!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  wow. i never thought of it that way about them but it does portray them accurately. I have to find friends who know how to enjoy their food and are good conversationalists too. i may be asking fro too much!!!!!

                  1. re: drramin

                    Meet up with some chowhounds -- I've had the pleasure of chowing with hundreds of them, and they're invariably good conversationalists (especially when talking about food) as well as passionate about their chow.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      how do you meet other chowhounds? i would love to find new friends to eat great food with.

                      1. re: drramin

                        Check out your regional board and see if they have a mailing list for meetups (often called "chowdowns"). You could search the board for past announcements and contact info.

              2. drramin, these are obviously friends with certain phobias about food...and we all have some to offer big and small...however I would like to point out that in Europe, the Mediterranean and other parts of the world eating fish whole is more common and actually extra flavorful...my eastern European parents taught me how to eat and de-bone whole fish as a young child so this manner of eating fish is common for me...this I am sure would leave your friends out for sure...it is here in America that convenience or sheer lazyness perhaps created filets, fish steaks and so on...the one thing I do agree with though is being careful when eating fish...there may be a bone left in the serving if not handled correctly when cleaning and cutting...no need to panic though.

                22 Replies
                1. re: gutreactions

                  Also Asians eat whole fish. I remember taking my friend to an Thai place and she said the fish sounded interesting, so we ordered it. She literally freaked out when she saw the whole fish: head, tail, fins and all!! All I could say was yum!

                  1. re: justagthing

                    You know, a lot of "Americans" eat whole fish. Fishing is still pretty popular among a broad segment of the population, and those people kill, clean, etc. the fish. My sister served whole fish at her wedding reception. It's a myth that "Americans" freak out at the idea of whole fish. Maybe some *people* do, but those people don't represent all Americans.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I agree with you Ruth, but there are a large number of "Americans" who have only seen fish as served in Long John Silvers, Red Lobster, or Van de Camps style.
                      Some of the reactions that I've seen from people when I ran my Korean restaurant were really out there. They ranged from the mild "Oh my God" to one woman running into the parking lot and becoming violently ill.
                      I don't know how many times I heard variations on the "But it's LOOKING at me" line.

                      1. re: hannaone

                        Similar incident. Friend's family visited New Orleans from WI, and all went to Fitzgerald's on the Lakefront (long gone). Friend's mom ordered the gumbo and it came with a crab claw sticking up, like the last scene in the movie, "Deliverance." She fainted on the spot and had to be taken to the hotel.

                        Some folk have been spared certain aspects of food prep.

                        Hunt

                        1. re: hannaone

                          I remember a post on chowhound where the poster was traumatized because he'd ordered live crab in a Chinese restaurant, the crab had been brought out live for him see, and it had reached out a claw and touched him. He not only couldn't bring himself to eat it, he was upset with the restaurant for allowing this horrific experience.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            The crab touching me would not deter me from dining on it. If it was "named," then I'd have a problem. Like ordering "live Maine lobster" from a tank. If the waitstaff say, "he oreder Clem... " then, I would have a problem.

                            Since we've had "Annie Hall" instances, with live soft-shelled crabs, I have no compunction to not fry the little crustaceans up for a good meal. Just do not tell me that it has a "name."

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I had a small farm in the Arkansas Ozarks for a number of years - chickens, goats, milk cow, a few hogs as well as a pond stocked with catfish. I learned pretty quickly not to put a name on anything I might have to eat.

                              1. re: rfneid

                                I name my poultry before cooking it :-). Sylvia was the Thanksgiving bird. Of course, these birds are already dead when I name them!

                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                I had some friends who raised a calf named "Dinner" and a lamb named "Bob" (as in "shiska-"). Both were quite tasty.

                                1. re: Scrapironchef

                                  Gordon raised some turkeys and pigs for the F Word and named them. He then killed them and ate them. Strange man.

                                  TT

                              3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Only in an affluent society do you see this kind of self absorbed behavior. Horrific experience?? Too funny. Fish have bones, olives have pits.

                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                  So do prunes but TT remembers hearing about a man suing a company for biting into a pit in a packect of "pitted prunes"!

                                  TT

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              sorry, but I never mentioned the nationality of my friend, I was responding to gutreations post about other parts of the world eating whole fish. It is very rare to find whole fish served in a seafood restaurant (at least in the 'American' sense). Anyways, my friend did freak out, would not touch the fish and I had to cover it/hide it from her as she had difficulty eating anything else w/the fish looking at her (LOL). She is one that grew up on fillets and fried fish.

                              1. re: justagthing

                                Whole fish is common in the US in sea coast cities. Wife knows to ask, and then usually orders a filet of fish, instead. In the UK, her sole is always de-boned, tableside, but she has no problem with removing tiny bones from most fish. The species of fish can make a major difference, to how many, and the type, of bones likely to be found.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Once, having ordered sole at Raoul's in NYC , the waiter before serving it to me asked if he should debone it...I said "No, Thank you" because I was so used to doing it at home. My family are great lovers of seafood of all kind, named or not. Gosh, it's not as if they're pets.

                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                jfood is with you Ruth. He is a huge lover of whole fish. There is a local fishmonger who has a fish bar in the back of the store with lots of choices on ice. Go to the bar, grab the tongs, pick the whole fish and throw it in a plastic bag to get weighed. Go home and throw on the BBQ with a beutiful side salad and it is a great meal..

                              3. re: justagthing

                                i couldn't agree more. i absolutely love a whole fish any day. it's so much tastier and more flavorful. literally requires minimal preparation time, just proper seasoning and broiling and of course the freshest fish.

                                1. re: drramin

                                  also love to cook my fish in the microwave, little mess to clean up and taste like steamed fish, I do it Chinese style.

                                  1. re: justagthing

                                    You have been more fortunate, than I. About all that I find, that I can stand the taste of, from the mic., is rice, and a few non-meat leftovers. Something transpires with those radio-waves, and I do not like the taste afterwards. I never purchase anything, semi-prepared, that is ONLY for the mic. If I cannot cook it in a pan, the oven, or the toaster-oven, I'll pass everytime. This has been with four different mics., and is probably a very personal taste thing. I wish that I could "nuke" some things, and still eat them, but I cannot.

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      The way I understand it, microwave cooking is more like boiling. The water in the food is heated. That could explain your aversion, and I do agree that the microwave does unforgivable things to protein.

                                      1. re: spellweaver16

                                        Yes, that sounds about right. I've had "boiled beef" in London, several tiimes, and I have to agree that the "flavors" were about the same, and not to my liking. Maybe I should have typed "flavours?" For us, a toaster oven was the best investment, ever, so we do not have to heat up the regular ovens, just for a small leftover. I cannot stand the taste from the mic.

                                        Hunt

                                    2. re: justagthing

                                      Chinese style fish in the microwave is great. It's not boiling, more like quick-steaming. This method seems to allow the fish to soak up strong flavors like black bean sauce and sliced ginger.

                                      To the OP, I would find it very hard to be good friends with people like that.

                              4. Myself, I have a severe gag-reflex to fish bones and eggshells in my food. If I get one, I am off food for the night (and ain't a pretty sight if I find it cause it is in my mouth!). But that is me, my personal phobia/gag-reflex. I am embarressed if others at the table know this, or worst, experience my reaction. Bad manners!

                                I know my reaction is irrational, on the personal level. To try to make it a fault of the resturant is just plain silly...and smells of pompous ass.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Quine

                                  I agree with you, Quine. To say the least, a person who will not eat fish "bone-in" is certainly not a "foodie" in any sense of the word. Speaking of words, as another poster noted the word that comes to my mind is "silliness". 'nuf said.