Yesterday's `throwaway' fish varieties are today's fashionable food

Once ignored, unfamiliar, and inexpensive, fish has become a status food. Shark, formerly known only as an undersea predator, is now often described as ``veal of the sea.'' And skate, a singularly ugly creature, is the most delicious fish available, some say.

A few years ago, market men complained they couldn't give squid away. Now it's fashionable. Ocean perch, a perfectly familiar fish in today's market, was known as a throwaway years ago when my father, a fisherman on the Maine coast, knew it as redfish and used it as bait.

Consumers should be adventurous and try these new fish, and ask for them in both fish stores and supermarkets. One reason many of them were not appreciated in earlier days is because they were full of bones. But today's boning procedures eliminate this problem.

Tilefish, grouper, snapper, cusk, hake - this may seem like a strange kettle of fish to some home cooks, but these and other varieties are now readily available and are remarkably good eating.

Often these new-found and unfamiliar species of fish are classic specialties in other countries. Take the ugly monkfish, for example, shown with great enthusiasm by Julia Child on her television show in the '70s. In France, it's known as lotte and it's been a delicacy there for years.

The dogfish or sand shark, with its compact, snowy white meat, known as palombo, is a favorite simmered in a garlic-basil-tomato sauce in Italy.

Fish that used to be called ``trash'' are now known as ``under-utilized'' fish, and are not only acceptable, but are displayed with the same pride as meat and poultry on restaurant menus.

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