dont worry be happy eat fish

Dear Uma: Pete and I were ahead of schedule this year; the summer shorts and sandals were been packed away and the closets stuffed with down jackets and wool sweaters.

Dear Uma:

Pete and I were ahead of schedule this year; the summer shorts and sandals were been packed away and the closets stuffed with down jackets and wool sweaters. The flowers got dumped from their pots, the garden was harvested, and the deck furniture stowed in the shed. The backyard looks bare and desolate – perfect for the coming snow.

Even the marital couch got winterized, with the summer cotton sheets and light blankets put away and the big duvet and extra pillows making the bed look like puffy tie-dyed clouds. The larder is stocked and the wine rack is filled. We are ready; let the cold winds blow.

Exhausted from his time off, Pete went back to the mine a few days ago, leaving me to anticipate the snow in our fully prepared and cosy home.

Nature is a cruel jester sometimes because now we are having sunny warm weather; just when we are all prepped for some good old Yukon cold. I have to roll the duvet back at night, and yesterday I had to dig out the running shoes because it is too warm for lined boots. Cee came over for tea and we got two of the deck chairs out so that we could sit outside in the sun whilst sipping.

The only sure sign that we will be getting snow is the smell of rotting vegetation in the bush. Oh, and the fact that all the leaves are falling from the trees. Otherwise, Watson Lake is just one palm tree short of paradise these days.

I was supposed to get back to work when Pete left. I took a lot of time off this summer and find I am seriously behind in my research. Somehow this situation fails to inspire me; instead, I find myself avoiding my desk and doing things like baking huge batches of cookies for the deep freeze, or borrowing magazines on quilting from the library, or watching all the Lord of the Rings DVDs in one go.

This inertia is not like me. Am I ‘coming down with something’? Usually my ingrained fear of deadline ensures that my work is done on time but I have actually called to ask for an extension on this project – a first in all these years.

Maybe I am getting cabin fever really early this year. Among the many manifestations of cabin fever, which is a northern term for depression, is a lack of focus. In case that is the case I am going to get going on the fish.

In the event you are unaware of this very latest in scientific knowledge concerning depression, I shall dutifully fill you in.

Omega 3 deficiencies can not only cause depression but also violence, aggression, and suicide. There it is; mental illness due to not eating fish. This explained so much to me; I have a whole new understanding of the hows and whys of people, which is always a useful thing to have when one is always looking for ways to make the species more high-functioning.

It gets worse; the offspring of pregnant women who avoid fish are 50 per cent more likely to have children with a low verbal IQ. These children have increased problems with social functioning and peer interactions, a natural effect of a low verbal IQ, one would assume. The mothers doubled their risk of postpartum depression from not eating fish, and probably from having babies who don’t play well with others.

Omega 3s are not produced by the human body but need to be consumed, and while supplements are good, the eating of fish also provides important protein and micronutrients and although some omega 3s can be found in certain nuts and seeds, they don’t work as well as the fish-based ones. A handful of hazelnuts will not have the same effect as a fillet of fish.

Twenty per cent of our calories are from soybean and seed oils, which have lots of omega 6, but the fatty acids of omega 6s compete with the fatty acids of the omega 3s for space in the body and in the brain. This competition is not a good thing; we want the omega 3s without the battle.

As to the anti-depressant factor, it has been shown that omega 3 fatty acids work better as antidepressants than classical antidepressants. In fact they often work in treatment-resistant depressions when other antidepressants have failed. Perfect for those stubborn patients who refuse to take a pill but will happily eat a fish.

If there is one thing we have in abundance in the North it is fish and if there is one activity Pete loves in abundance it is fishing. We have a deepfreeze at least one third full of different sorts of fish. I eat this fish only when Pete is home because he is the one who cooks it. There is a look and a feel to a raw fish that completely undoes me, though I thoroughly enjoy eating it in every way from sushi to baked on the barbecue to fish chowder. A tin of tuna presents no problem, however, and I eat that in sandwiches and salads often when in my solo state.

The question now is how to get everyone eating either more fish, or eating fish at all. Somehow I don’t think those boxes of frozen battered fish sticks will entirely do the trick, so we need some educational pamphlets out there to enforce the idea that eating fish that looks like fish is the healthy way to go.

One of the first things that needs to go is any reference to ‘fatty acids’; ‘fatty’ just doesn’t work even when it is a good thing. Another possibility is the design and development of a cute fish to represent this newly created (we hope) food fad. The dairy business had cute cows, and the poultry business their cartoon chickens; someone could come up with a fish character that would appeal to adults and children.

The very word ‘fish’ lends itself to alliteration: fun, frolic, fame, flavour, fanny, etc. etc. and rhyme; dish, wish, kishke (OK, this one will take some work) It would not surprise me to hear a catchy jingle someday soon, touting the delights of fish as food.

Perhaps because of where I live, I am imagining a fish in a parka, whereas you would be more likely to see in your mind’s eye a fish in a bikini….

For certain there ought to be a lot more fish featured in situations where diet is controlled, such as prisons, where violence and suicide are rampant and depression is a fact of life, especially when one’s life is a life sentence.

School lunchrooms could adopt the fish food idea: children, like prisoners, are becoming prone to violence, suicide and depression, though probably with more reason. The studies of peer pressure among today’s kids reveal a situation in which no sane person could thrive and if they are already disadvantaged by a low verbal IQ….

And where better to initiate omega 3 eating than in that last bastion of nutrition poor food – hospitals? That would be a good place to help people fend off feelings of depression and suicide, if the hospital kitchen could be persuaded to serve the fish

with a little care and attention.

For the benefit of my own household, I will be spending these lovely fall days at my computer. No, I will not be working at my work; I am going to go on the internet and look for one of those clever little machines that smokes fish!

And what will you do, my friend, to ward off the evils of depression?



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.