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A fishy persuasion story

May 5th, 2004 · No Comments

Last Monday, two days before Mom and Dad came, I went shopping at Poulsbo’s Central Market, hoping to find fresh fish to serve to my family. Ted’s parents haven’t visted us for almost two years. I wanted to cook something special for them, as a treat for us all, and as a way to celebrate their vacation. Mom and Dad appreciate good food and I wanted to appreciate them.

Central Market is the best grocery store I know for literally miles around. For a special occasion I’m willing to make the extra 15 minute+ trip to the edge of the town-next-door in order to shop there. The produce is fresh and ripe enough to take home and eat that day (not hard and green) and the meat selection has the most variety, from buffalo to bacon. It is actually two grocery stores in one: a small organic food section within the rest of the store. The selection of Asian grocery items is the best I can find without riding the ferry to Seattle or the Eastside. Maybe I’d even call it three grocery stores in one.

The seafood counter and preparation area would probably fill most of the first floor of our home. Tank of lobsters. Cooked crabs resting upside down on ice. Fish filets and shellfish in rows behind the glass. Chowder to taste. Here we bought the octopus we cooked earlier this year.

But on Monday I didn’t see much affordable fresh fish for sale. The filets stacked behind the glass were priced high, beyond our budget. One the ice I saw a few trout, whole fish with head, eyes and tail. They seemed fresh. The price was reasonable. Maybe I’d buy one or two for dinner. But I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them. I wasn’t sure what to do.

I had hoped to find salmon on sale but I was willing to try something else if it looked good and was reasonably priced. What mattered most to me was finding something fresh and tasty to serve to my husband’s parents.

I asked the man behind the counter – who had provided advice during our octopus adventure – how to cook trout. He said most people like it pan-fried in butter. Next I think I may have asked about details – whether it was dredged in flour before pan-fried, and then whether there were other ways to cook trout. I’m not a fan of pan-frying. It didn’t appeal to me. At all.

The man selling seafood replied that he didn’t eat trout. He said he liked his trout swimming around in the streams.

I thought of my in-laws, my husband’s parents, coming across the country for the first time in two years. I wanted to get them something good to eat. Serving them pan-fried trout didn’t fit the picture. Especially if this seafood specialist didn’t like it himself. If he, an authority and expert, didn’t want to eat it, then why would I eat it – much less serve it to my in-laws?

As he talked, I looked at the trout displayed on the ice. The small black fish looked less appealing to me now. I moved my cart farther away from the counter, getting ready to go.

Okay, I said, as he finished telling me how he liked his trout alive and swimming. He had talked me out of the sale. I had been thinking about buying one or two trout. But his opinion convinced me to find something else.

I appreciated that he told me the truth, that he didn’t do a song and dance to sell me two trout, but instead by sharing his personal feelings about the fish, he convinced me to give him something more important than money: my trust.

His honesty persuaded me to buy salmon at Safeway instead. It was farmed fish, second-class in my book, but at least it was fresh and affordable. No bones. No pan frying. But the next time I can, I’ll be back buying fish at Central Market. I trust someone who has given me good advice twice, even to the point of losing a sale.

As I told this story to Ted and his parents the other night, explaining how it was the seafood specialist who had talked me out of buying his own fish, I realized that this is an evangelism story. It’s a story about persuasion. It’s a story similiar to one Robert Scoble might tell….

Tags: food