February 2010. I’m hungry. It’s lunchtime. Fish sounds good. I make fish.

Here is the email I sent to a couple of friends soon after this fish incident. The name of the grocery store has been omitted.

I just ate the worst tasting fish I have ever had in my life. Every burp brings back the traumatic memory of choking down this bargain tilapia, and I already have gas from it. Last month I bought a giant bag of Chinese imported tilapia at _____ with the misleading moniker  “Great American Seafood”. The pieces were individually wrapped.

Now I don’t like tilapia much to begin with, but it’s a cheap fish, and normally you can drown out its substandard flavor with seasonings. But this stunk as soon as I unwrapped a piece to fry for lunch, and now my poor pets are sitting at home marinating in the remnants of its disgusting stench. The smell was more alien fecal matter than seafood, but it wasn’t strong enough that I thought something was wrong with it. Now I’m wondering.

I called _____, and they’re going to refund me for the opened bag of these poor fish who lost their lives to be food, but now won’t even get eaten. I should drive to the store REALLY fast to avoid any chance of the mega-pack of tilapia defrosting and wafting into every crack and crevice of my car.

I will not buy this brand again, or a bargain pack of fish at _____ again. Maybe it’s not even fish, but some inexpensive byproduct forged from the union of rotting onions and gelatinized kelp goo that is scraped off of the beach with used push brooms. It’s almost that bad.

 Is there such a word as tilapiphobic? There is now.

 Evidently this company’s had other adventures with imported tilapia:
(the hyperlink I referenced is now expired).

A minute later, I added:

I just realized after I sent that that the acronym for Great American Seafood would be GAS. Yeah, that’s right on!

I had never cooked fish that smelled and tasted like sewage before. It was very disturbing. I mentioned this neurosis-inducing experience to a knowledgeable friend soon after it happened, and his response was something to the effect of, “oh yeah, tilapia eat sewage.”

Scratchy record player stopping noise: WHAT?!!

For real, people. Tilapia will eat human and animal waste. In Asia in particular, from what I’ve read, they are often raised on waste– that’s their primary food source. They are the bottom feeders of the edible fish world in a bad way as they are used to clean sewage treatment plants, to control algae, to eat weeds, to eliminate mosquito larvae, and in other ugh *shudder* practical but NASTY! functions.

Evidently they’re very easy to raise, which explains why I saw prison inmates raising them in above ground tanks in a desert on TV. As farm fish they can be fed corn and soy, which, oh joy, are two commonly genetically modified foods. Frankly I don’t want my Jell-O speaking to me in medieval Portuguese or my asparagus learning to waltz, so the implications of playing God with our crops really freaks me out. I think we’re asking for a zombie apocalypse by splicing eel genes into our lettuce (whatever “they” are doing– same difference).

Tilapia don’t have great nutritional value so I can’t bring myself to think of them as seafood anyway. If this fish doesn’t taste muddy or like sewage, it’s just bland. Seafood–salmon, lingcod, clams, calamari– typically has a distinctive flavor and this poor fish does not. I also have concerns about the drugs and hormones that tilapia might be fed.

I understand this finned chicken’s value in the sense that it provides economic benefits to its overlords and is probably the most affordable fresh (?) seafood on the market, but that does not excuse its seemingly limitless ability to exude the properties of whatever it was fed (in copious amounts).

Tilapia originated in Africa and are now, well, everywhere. Because they are so hearty they are an invasive species in some areas. Tilapia can be raised outside of farms, like in lakes, that then become fish outhouses because so many fish are emitting so much waste. In other words, buying tilapia doesn’t mean buying a product that is environmentally friendly or even responsible. They can do a lot of damage to a given ecosystem.

Doing a search on the web just now, I found yet another article that questions whether tilapia is good for us:


To be fair, I know that Whole Foods would not sell tilapia unless it meets rigorous standards: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/what%E2%80%99s-so-great-about-our-tilapia-we%E2%80%99ll-tell-you.

Ultimately, I can’t eat this fetid cichlid anymore. I’m not saying never because one day I might find myself sprinting across a desolate, windswept plain wearing a batik dashiki and a wizard’s hat while escaping from croquet mallet-swinging GMO corn cobs with eyeballs and have to take refuge at a tilapia farm run by Romulan expats (oh wait, that was Tuesday’s nightmare). But unless I’m faced with that type of extreme circumstance, I think I might need counseling before I ever try tilapia again.

For now I’ll stick to my swanky salmon, refined rockfish, and classy cod as the old paycheck allows. Cue the instrumental from Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive…

I grimace in distaste

This fish smells like putrid waste

(Welcome to the fish farm, to the fish farm)

I’m– tilapiphobic, tilapiphobic!


Soup and fish explain half the emotions in life. –Sydney Smith


©2013 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s