Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sharks and lutefisk, March 13th

We went to Natal Sharks Board in Umhlanga to watch a dissection of a shark, whatever they picked up from the sharknets the same morning. Sharks Board is a legend and one of the leading institutions in research around sharks throughout the world, so it's absolutely a place to go for people interested in sharks. This day they were showing a dusky shark and a 2,5m Spinner shark. The spinner shark got its name because it is often caught by anglers, and when it jumps high out of the water it spins around.

Measuring age of a shark is pretty much like counting the years of a tree in the woods. You just cut the spine and count the thin lines from the inside and out. Every new year makes a new ring. I’m quite impressed that the sharks also got a 12 months calendar system… unlike dogs and cats and such, where you have to multiply with 7 to find the equivalent of human years.

Sharks are commonly perceived as not to be good for eating! This is because sharks contain a lot of ammonia, mostly in the blood, and therefore require some preparations before you can fry it. Since ammonia is a form of acid you need some alkaline to neutralise it, so people dilute the shark-steaks in milk for 2-3 hours before frying it. This is of course not strange at all for us Norwegians. We don’t have fish that are already full of ammonia or alkaline or anything, so we add some. The fish is actually soaked in alkaline for several days (some times 2-3 weeks) to get the acquired sharklike basis. Basically you have a perfectly edible fish, then you soak it in poison… very logical! Then after poisoning our food, instead of using the antidote.. we wash it out thoroughly in water until it is safe to eat again (traditionally placed in a cage and put in a stream, where the flowing water could wash the alkaline out. Why go through all that trouble??

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