Plenty of fish in the sea of human dining

August 29, 2011 

Yesterday I was grabbing a bite to eat at one of our local dining establishments and while I was waiting for my food, I did a bit of people watching -- something I do with great regularity. I do it while I am sitting at stoplights and while I am in stores, but the best people watching of all has to be in large cities.

This time around, I wasn't passing judgment on who was pretty and who was not, nor was I trying to figure out what people did with their lives, but rather I became transfixed on a somewhat strange aspect of the people around me and that was how they attacked their food.

The restaurant was packed, so I had plenty of time to make my observations. For instance, there was this little old lady sitting two tables away from me and in front of her was a plate of food that was better suited for a pro football player than someone like herself. It was a heaping helping, and her approach to that massive pile of food was akin to a ravenous dog. I couldn't believe it.

Glancing around at other folks just a eating away, I took my newfound hobby to a whole different level. If the people around were fish, what fish would they be?

Since I have already described the little old lady's eating habits, I guess she is as good a starting point as any. It didn't take but just a moment for me to envision her as a big fat tiger shark. Why a tiger shark? Last year I was cobia fishing at the Betsy Ross reef and at the day's end I still had two five-gallon buckets of dead menhaden that I had been using as chum. Since we were getting ready to head in, I dumped the menhaden overboard and because they had been sitting in the hot sun, they were bloated and floating away in a giant silver mass. Not five minutes later I looked back at the floaters and this monster tiger shark had his whole head out of the water and was eating his way through the mass of fish like it was a giant ear of corn. Never once did his head go below the surface as he chomped his way through the fish.

If only that lady would have had an inkling of what was going through my mind.

Next up was this guy who obviously didn't practice oral hygiene. He had two fangs instead of a mouth full of pearly whites. He was too easy. If you have ever seen a spotted sea trout with those two pointy teeth on their top jaw that was him to a T. If that wasn't enough to make my mental comparison complete, I watched him suck in his food instead of chewing it. I nailed that one right on the head as he reminded me of the many occasions in which I have watched a trout sipping in a shrimp as it floating by.

This game was just getting better by the moment.

Two tables over sat Mr. Grouper. I swear this dude's mouth was big enough that you could probably stuff a basketball in that hole in his face. He was eating a giant burger, and I swear he ate that sucker in two bites. Next to him was this dainty little thing with similar teeth that didn't eat her food but nibbled on it with amazing speed. Hmm, I would have to say she was toss up between a sheepshead or a triggerfish -- both of which can clean the bait off a hook before you can blink. At this point, I was laughing so hard tears were running down my face. Hey, this is fun!

From past columns you know that I make fun of the Golden Corral or, as I like to call it, the Golden Trough. This one man made me think about that restaurant because he had a two-handed, supersized soft drink that he had already refilled twice before he even got his meal. I could just sense that when that plate arrived at his table, it wasn't going to be around for long. Sure enough, the waitress brought his lunch -- three plates' worth -- and before she could set down the last plate, he was done with the first. What fish did I come up with? My favorite, Mr. Wahoo! There isn't a fish alive that hits a bait harder than a wahoo and when they decide to eat, I pity the fish they choose to attack. It is pure savagery.

So what other fish did I see? Well, there was a suckerfish, a flounder (it would be cruel to describe that lady), a snook and one catfish with whiskers. I am not sure if any of these folks caught me studying them and if they did, they must have wondered what was I thinking.

The next time you are waiting on your food, take a look around and see what you can come up with.

Lord knows what they were all thinking about me, but if I had to guess, I'd say it wouldn't be pretty at all.

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